Pelosi, Murtha Lead Congressional Delegation in Iraq

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. John Murtha, both vocal war critics, were in the Iraqi capital Saturday at the head of a delegation of House members on a fact-finding mission as the White House and Congress dueled over the expansion of U.S. forces in Iraq.

The Pelosi delegation visited the heavily fortified Green Zone, site of the American Embassy, and met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

"We come out of the meeting with a greater understanding of the others' point of view," Pelosi, D-Calif., said, in brief remarks after the meeting.

The delegation "stressed our belief that it is well past time for the Iraqis to take primary responsibility for the security of their nation," she said in a statement.

Pelosi also met with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, to discuss the security situation and the political process in Iraq as well as ways of making the government's national reconciliation plan a success, according to Talabani's office.

The delegation also came "to convey to our troops the appreciation of the American people for what they're doing, to applaud their patriotism," Pelosi said.

Pelosi has been a sharp critic of the Bush administration's conduct of the war and has led a drive in Congress against sending 21,500 more troops as part of a new security crackdown in Baghdad.

In Washington on Friday, President Bush challenged skeptical lawmakers not to prematurely condemn his buildup, saying "I'm the decision-maker."

Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat and Vietnam veteran, has been a longtime critic of the war.

In Islamabad on Friday, visiting U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State John Gastright confirmed that a congressional delegation led by Pelosi would visit Pakistan and meet with President Pervez Musharraf. The dates of the trip have not been made public.