BAGHDAD, Iraq – U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) made an unannounced trip to Baghdad early Friday for talks with top Iraqi officials, including the country's new president, Ghazi al-Yawer (search).
U.S. Embassy spokesman Bob Callahan (search) said Powell was met at Baghdad International Airport by U.S. Ambassador to Iraq John D. Negroponte. Powell is the highest ranking American official to visit since Iraq's interim government took power on June 28.
Callahan told The Associated Press that Powell is expected to hold talks Friday with al-Yawer and Iraq's deputy prime minister, Barham Saleh.
Powell arrived in Iraq following meetings with Kuwaiti and Saudi leaders in their respective countries Thursday.
In the Saudi port city of Jiddah, Powell met with interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who wants Muslim nations to dispatch troops to Iraq to help defeat an insurgency that he said threatens all Islamic countries.
Allawi made the appeal a day after Saudi officials disclosed that they had initiated an effort to encourage the creation of a Muslim security force to help bring stability to Iraq.
Powell said he did not know whether the proposed force would complement the coalition or would be a one-for-one substitution. The number of Muslim troops in the coalition is believed to be scant.
Powell flew to Baghdad from Kuwait aboard a military aircraft and then by helicopter to the heavily guarded "Green Zone" (search) where the U.S. Embassy is located.
The visit is Powell's third to Baghdad since the ouster of President Saddam Hussein.
Powell is on a weeklong tour of central Europe and the Middle East.
In an interview Thursday with al-Arabiya TV in Saudi Arabia, Powell said the appropriate response to the recent spate of attacks by Iraqi insurgents is not withdrawal from the country but accelerated efforts to defeat them.
He noted that some members of the U.S.-led coalition have opted to leave Iraq and that some companies are restricting operations because of the dangers.
"This seems to me to be an incentive to the rest of us to redouble our efforts to get after these insurgents, to get after these terrorists and murderers," Powell said. A transcript of the interview was made available by the State Department.
He also said the administration plans consultations with Iraqi officials on Iraq's problems with Iran.
Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan said recently Iran remained Iraq's "first enemy" because of interference in Iraq's internal affairs.
Powell said his consultations with Iraqi officials are aimed at seeing "what needs to be done with Iran, to persuade them that this is the time for them to play a positive role, not a role of interference or intervention."
He added that Iran should be doing everything it can to help Iraq stabilize itself. "We need to work with Iran to get it to play a positive role, and not a negative role," he said.