BAGHDAD — Vice President Joe Biden returned to Iraq on Monday to mark this week's formal end to US combat operations and push the country's leaders to end a six-month post-election stalemate blocking formation of a new government.
Wednesday's ceremony will signal a shift toward a greater US diplomatic role as the military mission dwindles seven years after the American invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
Underscoring the shift, officials said Biden will make a new appeal to Iraqi leaders, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, to end the political deadlock and seat a new government. March 7 parliamentary elections left Iraq without a clear winner, and insurgents have exploited the uncertainty to hammer Iraqi security forces in near-daily attacks.
Biden and al-Maliki will meet Tuesday morning "to discuss the political situation and withdrawal, and Iraqis taking over responsibility for security," the prime minister's adviser, Yasin Majeed, told the Associated Press.