BAGHDAD — US Vice President Joe Biden emphasized to Iraqi leaders Thursday that the US wants nothing more than for Iraq to be a free and democratic country in a daylong visit that officials said would focus on the departure of American troops from the country.
Biden's trip marks the first visit by a top US official since Iraq approved a new Cabinet last month, breaking a political deadlock and jump-starting its stalled government after March's inconclusive elections. Three explosions in the capital killing two people, however, demonstrated the lingering security challenges facing the country's young democracy.
"We have one overwhelming desire, the single best thing, that could happen to the United States, literally, is for you to be a free, prosperous democracy in this part of the world," the vice president told reporters before a meeting with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.
Officials said they expected the issue of whether to keep some US forces in Iraq beyond the Dec. 31 deadline to dominate the agenda with Talabani, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Kurdish President Massoud Barzani.