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Iraq Transition

Rumsfeld in Iraq on unannounced visit

American contractor kidnapped in Baghdad

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived in Iraq early Tuesday on an unannounced visit, hours after a U.S. Embassy official said a U.S. citizen working for a contracting company was kidnapped from a construction site in Baghdad.

The embassy would not reveal the name of the abducted American or the name of the company. The contractor's next of kin has been notified.

Rumsfeld was to meet with officials of the new Iraqi government, U.S. commanders and American troops. He landed in Baghdad about 6 a.m. Tuesday (10 p.m. Monday ET) -- his arrival previously undisclosed for security reasons.

Rumsfeld is scheduled to meet with Iraq's new president, Jalal Talabani; Prime Minister-designate Ibrahim al-Jaafari; interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi; and with leaders of the country's Kurdish minority.

Speaking to reporters on his way to Iraq, Rumsfeld said Iraq's January elections for a transitional parliament had generated momentum that needed to be maintained.

He said he would stress the need for Iraqi leaders to stick with a timetable for drafting a permanent constitution and holding the next round of elections.

Iraq's transitional administrative law calls for a referendum on a permanent constitution by mid-October, followed by elections for a permanent government by the end of the year.

Rumsfeld is also scheduled to meet with senior U.S. officers in Iraq and hold a town hall-style meeting with some of the roughly 140,000 U.S. troops there. He told reporters there were several positive trends in the two-year war but would not make any predictions about when significant numbers of U.S. troops could be brought home.

The visit is his ninth trip to Baghdad since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Ransom demanded

Pakistan's foreign ministry said Monday that a group that claimed it kidnapped a Pakistani diplomat in Baghdad has demanded ransom for his release.

The ministry would not disclose any further details. The group -- called Omer Bin Khatab -- claimed to have kidnapped diplomat Malik Mohammad Javaid on Sunday, a Pakistani official said.

Javaid failed to return home from Saturday evening prayers at a western Baghdad mosque, police said.

The Foreign Ministry said Javaid had contacted the embassy in Baghdad to say he was unharmed.

"I appeal to the kidnappers to release Malik Mohammad Javaid," said Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Sunday, Reuters reported. He is a civilian member of the embassy staff."

Pakistan is a key U.S. ally in its fight against al Qaeda, but it opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

In another reported kidnapping, the deputy police chief of the southern city of Najaf, Brig. Gen. Basim Mohammed Kadhum, has been abducted, the Iraqi Ministry of Interior said Monday. Kadhum was in the southern Baghdad area of al-Doura over the weekend when he was taken, the ministry said. The ministry said it wasn't known who abducted Kadhum.

Meanwhile, Iraq's Defense Ministry said on Monday that a man has confessed to kidnapping two French journalists last year in Iraq. Journalists Christian Chesnot of RFI and George Malbrunot of Le Figaro were captured in mid-August and released in December.

Amir Hussein Shaykhan confessed that he and a Syrian national kidnapped the journalists, the defense ministry said.

Talabani predicts U.S. exit in two years

The newly elected president of Iraq said he expects that U.S. troops will be gone from his country within two years.

Jalal Talabani said Sunday that by then, Iraq should be able to rebuild its forces and secure the country, taking over the role being performed by some 140,000 U.S. troops.

"We are trying to build -- as soon as possible -- our military forces," he said.

"I think within two years, we can do it, and at the same time, we will remain in full consultation and coordination, cooperation with our American friends."

Talabani said how long U.S. forces remain in Iraq will depend on a number of factors, including "the common desire of Iraqi people and American people."

Two influential U.S. senators said Sunday they were optimistic about Talabani's prediction.

The two-year figure "probably is realistic in terms of the bulk of the troops," said Sen. Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, the committee's top Democrat, said, "The single most important thing we have to be doing now is make sure that training is on target and that they have the capacity to govern."

"By the end of '06 we're going to have a pretty clear picture of whether or not it's succeeding or failing," Biden said. "And success will be dependent upon a government that's representative and a capacity to govern in terms of security."

But even if that is not achieved, "I suspect you'll see the American people calling for us to significantly draw down anyway," he said.

As U.S. and Iraqi officials considered the nation's security forces, several thousand protesters in Baghdad over the weekend were demanding U.S. troops leave the country. (Full story)

Sweep for rebels

On Monday, U.S. soldiers with Task Force Baghdad and more than 500 Iraqi security forces arrested 65 suspected insurgents during a sweep through Baghdad's Al-Rasheed district, according to a U.S. military statement. A suspected insurgent was injured during the sweep, which was named Operation Vanguard Tempest, the statement said.

The district, southwest of the city's center, has a reputation for "harboring terrorist networks," the military said.

"Those detained are suspected of committing numerous crimes and activities to include assassinations, beheadings, kidnapping, intimidation, and attacks" against U.S. and Iraqi forces, the military said.

Other developments

  • Insurgents wounded three U.S. Marines on Monday when they detonated three improvised explosive devices in three vehicles at a security checkpoint at Camp Gannon, a Marine forward-operating outpost in the far western region of Anbar province, the U.S. military said.
  • An Iraqi working with the U.S.-led military in northern Iraq was "assassinated" Monday, becoming "the third public servant in the Nineveh province to be killed in three weeks," the military said. Lt. Mohammad Salih Talab, a member of the Explosives Ordnance Disposal section of the Joint Coordination Center, was killed on his way to work in Mosul, according to a written statement.
  • In Baghdad, Iraqi police officials said a car bomb targeting a U.S. military convoy detonated near the Amiriya district, in the western part of the capital, wounding four Iraqi civilians and damaging three civilian cars.
  • CNN's Jamie McIntyre, Enes Dulami, Syed Mohsin Naqvi, Kevin Flower, Ayman Mohyeldin, Mike Mount, Barbara Starr and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

    Reuters contributed to this report.

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