8 APRIL 2009

President Barack Obama received the kind of welcome usually reserved for pop stars and Hollywood icons when he made a surprise visit to US troops in Iraq. Dropping in on barracks in Baghdad the American leader was mobbed by excited soldiers clamouring to shake his hand and have their picture snapped with him as a momento.

Mr Obama, who has already revealed plans withdraw most US combat troops from the region over a 19-month timetable, took it all his stride, at one point beaming widely as he was enveloped in a hug from a female recruit.

Speaking to the 600 or so servicemen and women, the 47-year-old leader praised their efforts in the war-torn area. "You have given Iraq the opportunity to stand on its own as a democratic country. That is an extraordinary achievement," he said.

The unannounced visit, Mr Obama's first to the country since taking power in the White House, marked the end of a whirlwind eight-day international trip with his wife Michelle.

During the tour Mr Obama joined other visiting world leaders, including British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, at the G20 summit in London and met French president Nicholas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni Sarkozy in France.

Photo: Rex
The US leader was mobbed by servicemen and women, including one female soldier who enveloped him in a tight hug, as he dropped in unannounced on their barracks in Baghdad
Photo: Rex
After meeting the 600 or so soldiers he praised their "extraordinary achievement" in helping Iraq "stand on its own two feet"
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