The Republic of Korea's (ROK) President Roh Moo-hyun made a surprise visit to Iraq Wednesday to meet his country's troops.
ROK has 3,600 troops based in the northern Iraqi region of Irbil, the largest contingent in the country after those of allies Britain and the United States. The deployment drew anti-war protests and was delayed by several months.
Television pictures released after Roh had left Irbil showed him in a sand-colored camouflage jacket greeting men and women soldiers, who cheered and raised cans of soft drink.
He joined about 600 soldiers for breakfast and visited a hospital set up by the troops before returning to his presidential plane in Kuwait after 2 hours.
Also yesterday, three Iraqis were killed when a suicide car bomber attacked a US convoy in the northern city of Samarra, a local police official said. In a separate incident, an Iraqi policeman was killed when insurgents opened fire on US soldiers in the town that the Iraqi interim government said it had seized from guerrillas after a major offensive in early October.
In another restive Sunni Muslim town, Ramadi, two Iraqis were killed in shooting after a suicide bomber had attacked a US military checkpoint, witnesses and a hospital official said.
The situation in Iraq is unlikely to improve any time soon, according to a classified cable and briefings from the Central Intelligence Agency, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.
The assessments are more pessimistic than the Bush administration's portrayal of the situation to the public, government officials told the newspaper.
The classified cable -- sent last month by the CIA's station chief in Baghdad after the completion of a one-year tour of duty there -- painted a bleak picture of Iraq's politics, economics and security and reiterated briefings by Michael Kostiw, a senior CIA official, according to the Times.
The station chief cannot be identified because he is still working undercover, the Times added.
The cable, described as "unusually candid," cautioned that security in the country is likely to deteriorate unless the Iraqi Government makes significant progress in asserting its authority and building up the economy, the paper said.
Spokesmen for the White House and the CIA told the Times that they could not discuss intelligence matters and classified documents.
(China Daily December 9, 2004)