Syrian PM visits Baghdad, the first time such a senior official visited in nearly 3 decades; Clinton makes an unannounced visit to Baghdad, promises continued engagement
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  • Syrian Prime Minister Naji al-Otari's during his visit to Baghdad met with his Iraqi counterpart Nouri al-Maliki and discussed issues of mutual importance. Mr. al-Otari was the highest Syrian official to visit Iraq in almost three decades. Mr. Ali al-Dabbagh, the Iraqi government spokesman, stated that the Syrian PM’s discussions with Mr. al-Maliki, which focused on preventing militants from operating from either country, showed “great optimism.” Both the countries restored diplomatic relations in November 2006, ending a 24-year break that began when Damascus accused Iraq of inciting riots in Syria in 1982.

    Meanwhile, the Iraqi military announced that security forces had arrested four suspects implicated in a recent attack on Baghdad's protected Green Zone from eastern Baghdad, a predominantly Shiite neighborhood. Militants also shelled the Green Zone late on April 25, but there were no reports of casualties or damage. It was the first such bombardment inside the Green Zone in more than three months1.

    US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meanwhile made an unannounced visit to Iraq, where she stated that she saw no sign that the country was sliding back into sectarian warfare despite recent suicide bombings. Clinton promised continued American engagement in the country, even as Washington prepares to withdraw its troops from the country by the end of 2011. The visit coincided with a spike in violence, with two female suicide bombers attacking a Shi’ite shrine in Baghdad, killing 60 people in the deadliest single incident in Iraq in more than 10 months. Clinton reiterated that the troop drawdown would be handled in a “responsible and careful way” and that it would not affect efforts to improve Iraq’s security forces, or complete the ongoing reconstruction and development projects2.