President George W. Bush on Sunday made a farewell visit to Iraq, a place that defines his presidency, just 37 days before he hands the war off to a successor who has pledged to end it.
Air Force One, Bush’s distinctive powder blue-and-white jetliner, landed at Baghdad International Airport in the afternoon local time, after a secretive Saturday night departure from Washington and an 11-hour flight. In a sign of modest security gains in this war zone, Bush was welcomed with a formal arrival ceremony — a flourish that was not part of his previous three trips to Iraq.
By JENNIFER LOVEN, AP White House Correspondent
Bush planned a rapid-fire series of meetings with top Iraqi leaders, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He and Bush were marking the recent security agreement between the two nations.
Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, said the agreement was “a remarkable document — unique in the Arab world because it was publicly debated, discussed and adopted by an elected parliament.”
Hadley said the trip “shows that we are moving into a different relationship … with Iraqis rightfully exercising greater sovereignty, we in an increasingly subordinate role.”
It was Bush’s last trip to the war zone before President-elect Barack Obama takes office Jan. 20. Bush’s most recent Iraq stop was over 15 months ago, in September 2007.
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