Clinton Assures Iraqis Pullout Isn't Abandonment Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to reassure Iraqis Saturday that the U.S. won't abandon them even as it pulls troops out.

Clinton Assures Iraqis Pullout Isn't Abandonment

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Secretary of State Clinton has made an unannounced trip to Baghdad to reassure Iraqis the United States will stay committed, despite planned troop cutbacks. The secretary made the usual rounds, meeting various government officials, but also tried, as she does on all trips, to speak directly with Iraqis.

NPR's Michele Kelemen is traveling with Secretary Clinton. Michele, thanks for being with us.

MICHELE KELEMEN: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: And I guess she met with Iraqis in a town-hall kind of style format, reminiscent of a certain political campaign. Who did she talk to?

KELEMEN: Well, that's right. I mean, this is what she likes to do every time she travels. She actually had two different events that were quite interesting. First she met in a much smaller setting with a group of widows, women who have lost their husbands. And she talked about how this was the one thing that united all of them, that they came - she couldn't tell, you know, who was who, who was Sunni, who was Shia, but that they all had this in common. And she talked about the need to - for the U.S. to help do more to help women like this.

And then she had a town hall that was also a lot of women, but men as well, and that was a much larger group - well over 100. There were people from nongovernmental groups, some former journalists and academics. And so it was quite an unusual event. She said she doesn't know any other American official who's done that so far.

SIMON: Tell us about what the give-and-take was like.

KELEMEN: She was asked some of the typical questions she always gets asked anywhere in the world, like talk about yourself as a role model, but then there were questions specifically about Iraq; the need for building up the agricultural sector, the problems with the educational system. It was mainly a very polite crowd. It was a little bit awkward at times. And it only got really sort of feisty toward the end when she said that she was running out of time and only had a few more questions and suddenly all the hands shot up, and she promised to come back and do it again.

SIMON: This has been a particularly deadly week in Iraq. I guess suicide bombings have killed more than 150 people in just the past few days. What did the secretary say that might bear on how she sees the nature of a future relationship and U.S. commitment in Iraq?

KELEMEN: She told us on the plane on the way here that she didn't think this was going to rekindle the sort of violence that Iraq has seen in recent years. She blamed these attacks on those she called rejectionists who don't like the fact that Iraq is making progress. She was asked today about, you know, concerns that people don't trust the security forces.

And she also was asked, it was interesting, about - a Christian Assyrian woman asked her, you know, what the U.S. can do to help people who have been forced from their homes, you know, gain their rights back. And let's listen to what she had to say about that.

Secretary HILLARY CLINTON (State Department): I would hope that for Iraq, given the intelligence and the work ethic and the courage of the Iraqi people, that all Iraqis will be welcomed and put to work to help build a better future for your country.

SIMON: NPR's Michele Kelemen traveling with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Thanks so much.

KELEMEN: Thanks for having me.

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