:: Peoples Time Online ::
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has met top officials in Iraq and the American troops stationed in the country during an unannounced trip to capital, Baghdad.
Pompeo met Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, President Barham Salih, Foreign Minister Mohamed Alhakim and Parliament Speaker Mohamed al-Halbousi, The Associated Press reported on Wednesday.
The US State Department did not immediately comment on reports of Pompeo’s visit to Iraq. Pompeo and the Iraqi officials made no statements to the media.
Pompeo’s Middle East tour comes amid confusion over conflicting statements by US President Donald Trump and senior US officials about a planned troop withdrawal from Syria.
When asked on Tuesday about a possible visit, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi had declined to confirm.
But he said any meeting with Pompeo would involve a discussion of how to deepen Iraq’s relationship with the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group.
“He’s an ally, he represents a friendly country,” said Abdul Mahdi.
“We will raise those issues, and how to deal with regional issues altogether and deepen our economic and educational relations with the United States.”
Pompeo told a news conference in the Jordanian capital, Amman, on Tuesday that the fight to defeat ISIL and Iran remained the most pressing issues in the region.
Pompeo is also expected to visit Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Kuwait.
Last month, Trump made the surprise announcement that he will pull all 2,000 US troops from Syria, causing alarm among Washington’s allies in the region.
Trump has not said, however, that he intends to withdraw American forces from Iraq, where 5,200 American troops are stationed.
He made a visit to the Al Asad Air Base outside Baghdad on December 26, in the wake of the announcement, where met with US troops stationed there but not with Iraqi leaders.