Abbas Seeks to Mend Iraq Ties in First Visit Since 2003 War

Palestinian leader, Iraqi officials to discuss solutions for Palestinian refugees stranded in camps.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sought to repair relations between Palestinians and the Iraqi government and find solutions for Palestinian refugees stranded in camps during his first visit to the country since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

The visit Sunday is significant because it marks a major step in improving ties between the Shiite-led government of Iraq and the Palestinian leadership, which had warm relations with the ousted regime of Saddam Hussein.

Iraqi spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the Iraqi government would affirm its support for the Palestinians and the creation of a Palestinian state during Abbas' talks with President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Palestinian exiles who fled to Iraq after the establishment of the state of Israel enjoyed a privileged status during Saddam's rule, but that privilege ended when the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam and paved the way for his Shiite opponents to take power.

About 11,000 Palestinians still live in Iraq, mostly in Baghdad's Shiite district of Baladiyat. Hundreds of Palestinians, overwhelmingly Sunni, were slaughtered during the sectarian violence of a few years ago in Iraq.Several thousand remain stranded at refugee camps along the Iraqi-Syrian border where they fled the sectarian massacres.

Abbas' aide, Saeb Erekat, said a main reason for Abbas' visit was to discuss the legal situation of the Palestinians in those camps. But al-Dabbagh asserted the situation has improved.

"The Iraqi government has dealt with and overcome this issue," al-Dabbagh said. "It is no more a problem, and now Palestinians in Iraq are sharing a normal life with Iraqis."

The visit comes as violence has dramatically dropped in Iraq, though Iraq's security forces continue to be targets of insurgents.

On Sunday, two roadside bombs in western Anbar province killed one officer and wounded three other people, said Police 1st Lt. Bashar Khudaeir.

He said a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol exploded in central Fallujah, killing one officer.

That was followed by a second roadside bomb targeting a patrol in another part of the city that wounded one officer and two civilians, Khudaeir said.

Attacks in the Sunni-dominated Anbar province have dropped dramatically since tribes turned against al-Qaida.

Elsewhere, someone threw a grenade at a police patrol in Samarra, killing one policeman and wounding four, a police official said on condition of anonymity because he was not supposed to release the information.

Unknown assailants blew up a house on the western outskirts of Baghdad owned by a government adviser to Sunni paramilitary groups, according to another police official, also speaking on condition of anonymity for the same reason.

Two guards were injured in the Saturday night attack but the owner, Thamir al-Tamimi, no longer lives there full-time, the official said.Al-Tamimi advises groups known as Awakening Councils or Sons of Iraq, which broke with the insurgents and now work with the army and police to provide security.

Tensions between the councils and the government have risen since Iraqi troops put down an uprising last week by members of an Awakening Council group in Baghdad angry over the arrest of their commander on terrorism and criminal charges.

Elsewhere, the U.S. military said a U.S. aircraft attacked a group of council members planting a bomb north of Baghdad. One person was killed and two were wounded in the Thursday attack, the U.S. said.