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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 May 2007, 14:16 GMT 15:16 UK
Cheney in Baghdad for key talks
Gen Petraeus and Dick Cheney
US commander Gen David Petraeus welcomed Mr Cheney to Iraq
Visiting US Vice-President Dick Cheney has met Iraq's political leaders and US army chiefs to discuss security and attempts at political reconciliation.

Mr Cheney said his talks with PM Nouri Maliki focused on the operation to curb violence in and around Baghdad.

Iraq is the first stop on a Middle East tour by the vice-president.

A joint US-Iraq security "surge" in Baghdad is entering its fourth month but sectarian violence continues and US troops are being killed every day.

As Mr Cheney arrived in Baghdad, at least 14 people were killed in the city of Irbil, in the relatively calm Kurdish north.

Oil revenue

Mr Maliki said his meeting with Mr Cheney had laid the foundation for future practical help from the US on security and political fronts.

Wounded man in Irbil
A policeman evacuates a casualty from the Irbil explosion

Mr Maliki said: "We talked about the challenges that we are facing in our own political process, but we also talked about the achievements of the Iraqi people as a result of the support of the United States."

US officials said Mr Cheney wanted faster progress on the fair division of oil revenues and the passage of laws to reinstate former Baath Party officials.

The BBC's James Shaw in Baghdad says Mr Cheney's unannounced visit comes at a critical time for US efforts to bring security to Iraq, with bombings and sectarian killings every day.

Mr Cheney's Middle East tour also takes in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt.

The vice-president also held talks with the US ambassador, Ryan Crocker, and with the commander of US forces in Iraq, Gen David Petraeus.

Ambassador Crocker said the vice-president would try to dissuade Iraqi politicians from taking a two-month holiday this summer.

"For the Iraqi parliament to take a two-month vacation in summer is impossible to understand," he said, given the "major effort" being made by US and Iraqi security forces.

Congressional battle

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has told 35,000 US troops they may be required in Iraq this autumn.

President George W Bush has already placed an extra 30,000 troops in Iraq as part of the 12-week-old security "surge" in Baghdad and in the western province of Anbar,

The latest Pentagon order would enable this push to be maintained until the end of the year, if necessary.

However, a defence department spokesman said no decision had yet been taken on prolonging the current surge.

In Washington, the president's Republican party is battling Democratic rivals who want Congress to place checks on funding for the war in Iraq.

Irbil attack

In northern Iraq, the bomb attack in Irbil injured about 70 people.

Television pictures showed the blast had destroyed a building and left a large crater on a road where interior ministry offices are located.

A witness quoted by Reuters news agency spoke of "fire coming out from the blast area. A man was burned to death."

A security official, First Lt Mariwan Kareem, told the agency the explosives in the truck had been hidden under kitchen cleaning products.

The near-daily bombings and instability that have gripped much of Iraq remain rare in the autonomous Kurdish northern region.

However, political tensions are rising over the drafting of a bill that will redistribute oil wealth among the country's Kurdish, Sunni and Shia population.

Most of Iraq's oil is concentrated around the Kurdish north and Shia south.

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