Baker meets Sunni leaders in Iraq
Friday, September 1, 2006; 11:58 AM
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, who heads an independent panel charged with taking a fresh look at U.S. policy in Iraq, met the most senior Sunni leaders in the Iraqi coalition government on Friday.
Baker held talks in Baghdad with Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zobaie, both members of the Sunni minority who form the backbone of the insurgency fighting to oust U.S. forces from Iraq.
Social workers and Iraqi officials say the steady climb in the number of orphans turned over to the government reflects the toll that war and economic hardship are taking on families. (Marwan Maamani -- Associated Press)
Zobaie has been meeting Sunni tribal leaders as part of the Iraqi government's efforts to defuse the insurgency. Hashemi has been critical of the national reconciliation plan, saying it is vague and fails to set a timetable for a U.S. troop pullout.
The U.S. embassy declined further comment on the unannounced visit to Iraq. It was not clear how long Baker, who also met President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, had been in the country.
Baker, a close friend of the Bush family who served under President George W. Bush's father, sat silently at a news conference held after his meeting with Zobaie.
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TVNL Comment: Why does the Washington Post refer to James Baker as the former Secretary of State and not as a current senior partner at the law firm of Baker Botts and senior counsel to the Carlyle Group; a war profiteer?