Obama Vows to Visit Iraq, Afghanistan Before ElectionBy Jim Malone
16 June 2008

Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama said Monday he will visit Iraq and Afghanistan sometime before the November election. Obama made the comment after a phone conversation with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, who is visiting the United States. More on the election campaign now from VOA National correspondent Jim Malone in Washington.

Sen. Barack Obama speaks about his economic plan at Kettering University in Flint, Michigan, 16 June 2008Campaigning in Michigan, Senator Obama told reporters he would visit Iraq and Afghanistan sometime before the election, but did not give any specifics.

Obama spoke earlier by phone with Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari and said later that he was encouraged by the reduction of violence in Iraq in recent months.

But Obama also said it was important to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, something he has pledged to do shortly after taking office if he wins the White House in November.

Obama spoke about his withdrawal plans during a campaign stop last week in Ohio.

"I think we have to end the war in Iraq. But we have to do it carefully," he said. "We have to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in."

The Obama campaign has been considering an overseas trip for some time. Official word that the Illinois senator will visit Iraq and Afghanistan came after some prodding by the presumptive Republican nominee, Senator John McCain.

McCain has said Obama's plans for withdrawal would lead to a U.S. defeat in Iraq, and the Arizona senator has pledged to keep American troops in Iraq as long as needed to achieve victory.

Sen. John McCain points to a reporter during a press briefing at his campaign headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, 16 June 2008McCain spoke to reporters at a news conference in Virginia.

"We are on the path to victory," he said. "And that victory means that Americans come home, but they come home with honor and victory, not in defeat."

McCain met with Zebari on Sunday and Zebari told him the U.S. troop surge in Iraq is working.

The war in Iraq is expected to be a major issue in the upcoming general election campaign. Iraq generally ranks as the second most important issue in polls of U.S. voters, right behind concerns about the domestic economy.

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