JANUARY 12 2009 15:30h
He arrived hours after bombers unleashed a wave of attacks across the capital that mainly struck Iraqi security forces.
He arrived hours after bombers unleashed a wave of attacks across the capital that mainly struck Iraqi security forces, killing at least seven people and wounding more than 30, a reminder of simmering instability despite better security.
The visit by the long-time chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee came at the end of a tour of southwest Asia that included stops in Pakistan, and Afghanistan, where Obama wants to send more troops as he withdraws from Iraq.
The Delaware senator, who takes office with President-elect Barack Obama next week, met President Jalal Talabani at his Baghdad residence and was due to meet other officials as part of a Senate delegation. No news conference was announced.
Biden is one of the few members of the U.S. Senate with a high profile in Iraq, where he is known as the author of a 2006 plan to divide the country into self-governing Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish enclaves.
That plan angered many Iraqi politicians, and was quietly put on the back burner as violence ebbed. Biden voted for the 2003 invasion of Iraq but later become a critic of the war and the way President George W. Bush executed it.
Monday's attacks came within hours of each other in the morning rush hour, mostly near Iraqi security patrols.
A roadside bomb in Baghdad's Yarmouk neighbourhood struck an Iraqi army lorry carrying ammunition. Three soldiers were charred to death inside the truck and four civilians wounded.
A bomb attached to a car followed quickly by another blast killed three and wounded 10 in the eastern New Baghdad district.
Near Sha'ab stadium in eastern Baghdad, a bomb struck a police patrol, wounding seven people including three policemen.
Another bomb hit a police patrol in central Baghdad's Karrada district, killing a civilian and wounding four policemen.
And In Ghazaliya district, western Baghdad, a roadside bomb attack on a police patrol wounded three policemen and a civilian.
Despite the litany of near daily bomb and gun attacks by militants, Iraq is still substantially less violent than it was 18 months ago, when sectarian death squads roamed and bodies piled up in the streets of Baghdad.
U.S. forces are increasingly taking a back seat to Iraqi troops under a new bilateral security deal that took effect at the beginning of this year, as violence edges downwards.
That security deal calls for U.S. combat troops to leave Iraqi cities by the middle of this year and for all troops to withdraw by the end of 2011. It was negotiated by the outgoing Bush administration, but is seen as compatible with Obama's plan to withdraw combat forces by mid-2010.
Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told Reuters U.S. and Iraqi officials were meeting to implement the withdrawal plan.
"The joint committee to execute the withdrawal of forces ... agreement begins its work this week," he said.
He added that issues to be worked out included ensuring security in all of Iraq's 18 provinces -- some still very violent, especially in the north -- and training security forces.
U.S. officials say that with the Iraqi military and police forces now over 600,000 strong, the U.S. military will be able to fall back to a support role under the agreement, training military recruits and helping out with logistics.