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Obama meets with Iraqi PM in Baghdad

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Monday as part of his weeklong tour abroad aimed at bolstering his foreign policy credentials.

Presidential nominee calls weeklong trip a 'head-start'

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Monday as part of his weeklong tour abroad aimed at bolstering his foreign policy credentials ahead of the U.S. election in November.

U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama, left, walks with Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabagh, second left, and Iraqi national security adviser Mowafak al-Rubaie, right, as Obama enters the office of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad on Monday. ((Thaier al-Sudani/Associated Press))
The Illinois senator was opposed to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and has made withdrawing troops from the country a top pledge during his presidential campaign.

Obama is also scheduled to meet with U.S. Gen. David Petraeus and soldiers on the ground in Iraq, which has seen a period of relative calm in the wake of the so-called surge of U.S. troops to increase security in Baghdad and other areas once raging with sectarian violence and militant attacks.

Obama's stops in Iraq came amid heavy security and marked the second leg of a war zone tour with two Senate colleagues, which had opened in Afghanistan.

After a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday, Obama reiterated his support of a plan to withdraw troops from Iraq to free up resources for Afghanistan, which he called the "central front" in the fight against terrorism.

Obama has endorsed removing U.S. combat forces from Iraq over a 16-month period, but has been less precise on the size and type of U.S. military role needed in the country after an exit from the battlefield.

Obama 'was wrong about the surge': McCain

His presumptive Republican rival, John McCain, challenged Obama to take the trip to Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama's critics contend he still lacks significant foreign affairs experience to serve as commander-in-chief.

In an interview Monday on ABC's Good Morning America, McCain said he hoped Obama would now "have the opportunity to see the success of the surge."

"This is the same strategy that he voted against, railed against," McCain said. "He was wrong about the surge. It is succeeding and we are winning."

But Obama dismissed the criticism, saying in an interview with CBS News on Sunday that "the troops that I've been meeting with don't seem to have those doubts."

He said the trip gave him "a head-start" on sending a message to other nations that the United States under his leadership would have a less unilateral approach than the current administration under President George W. Bush. 

"It's important that I have a relationship with them early, that I start to listen to them now and get a sense of what their concerns and their interests," Obama said.

With files from the Associated Press

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