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Pelosi meets al-Maliki in surprise trip to Iraqi

/ Source: The Associated Press

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a top Democratic critic of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, met with the Iraqi prime minister Saturday during a surprise visit to Baghdad.

Pelosi went into the meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki shortly after arriving in the Iraqi capital, a government official said, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to release the information.

U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Mirembe Nantongo confirmed that the California Democrat had arrived and said she would be meeting with senior U.S. and Iraqi leaders.

Pelosi’s visit comes a day after she led a bipartisan congressional delegation to Israel to mark the 60th anniversary of Israel’s founding.

Pelosi has criticized the Bush administration’s strategy of taking a “pause” before deciding whether a major drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq was warranted, advocating a faster troop withdrawal.

She also has led calls for the Iraqi government to contribute more financially to the reconstruction of the country.

On Thursday, President Bush’s Iraq war funding request failed in the House as anti-war Democrats and Republicans unhappy about added domestic funding formed an unlikely coalition to kill, for now, $163 billion to support U.S. troops overseas.

Republicans had been expected to provide the winning margin for the Iraq and Afghanistan funding but instead sat out the vote in protest. Their revolt was spurred by Democratic tactics in advancing the must-pass measure, as well as their efforts to add money for the unemployed and an expansion of GI education benefits to the bill.

The defeat of the Iraq funding measure came on a 149-141 vote. Nearly two-thirds of the House’s Democrats voted against continuing to fund the war as 132 Republicans sat out the vote in protest.

The practical effect of the GOP protest is likely to be minimal. While it kills the war funding component of the bill for now, the Senate is sure to revive it next week.