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Biden meets Iraqi leaders in Baghdad as official combat mission ends

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is received by U.S. military commander in Iraq General Raymond Odierno
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is received by U.S. military commander in Iraq General Raymond Odierno Reuters

US Vice-President Joe Biden was due to meet Iraqi leaders in Baghdad today, as President Barack Obama prepares to announce the official end of the seven-year Iraq combat mission.

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Biden landed in the Iraqi capital on Monday night and was due to meet President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the former premier and recent election winner Iyad Allawi on the first full day of his trip.

A major troop pullout this month has left fewer than 50,000 American soldiers in Iraq and Biden will take part in a ceremony Wednesday to mark the start of Operation New Dawn, the US military's new "advise and assist" mission, where remaining troops will advise the Iraqi government until all US forces leave altogether at the end of 2011.

America’s withdrawal has been met with a simultaneous surge in car bombings and shootings, many of which have targeted local security forces, which has raised security concerns.

Biden's trip comes almost six months after a closely-fought general election that has yet to usher in a new government.

His national security adviser Tony Blinken, said the current caretaker administration in Baghdad was not a "durable solution".

"There is some growing sense of urgency that government formation move forward and certainly the vice-president is going to urge the leaders to bring this process to a conclusion," he told reporters on Monday.

President Barack Obama is due to mark the symbolic end of combat operations Tuesday evening in a speech from the Oval Office.
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