US president George Bush made a surprise visit to Iraq today to meet newly-named prime minister Nouri Maliki and discuss the next steps in the troubled, three-year-old conflict.
It was a dramatic move by Bush, travelling to violence-rattled Baghdad less than a week after the death of terror chief Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a bombing attack.
The president was expected to be in Baghdad a little more than five hours.
The trip was known only to a handful of aides and a small number of reporters sworn to secrecy because of obvious security threats for Bush and members of his entourage.
Landing at Baghdad airport, Bush transferred to a helicopter for a six-minute ride into the heavily fortified Green Zone.
White House officials said the helicopter ride posed the greatest risk for the president.
Bush was greeted by another day of violence in Iraq – dozens of people were killed or wounded in explosions in the northern oil city of Kirkuk, and eight bodies were found in western Baghdad.
It was Bush’s second trip to Baghdad in less than three years. He visited American troops at Thanksgiving, 2003.