US Vice President Dick Cheney swept into Baghdad on an unannounced visit Monday, looking to highlight security gains and promote elusive political progress days before the war enters its sixth year.
But soon after he arrived, two explosions rocked Baghdad, following a roadside bombing that killed a policeman, underscoring the violence that still grips the nation almost five years after the US-led invasion.
A security official said one of the blasts was caused by a mortar attack on the highly-fortified Green Zone, home of the US embassy and the seat of Iraqi government.
Cheney first held talks with the top US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and the US ambassador Ryan Crocker and according to state television Al Iraqiya, he then went into a meeting with Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki.
He is due also to hold talks with other senior Iraqi political figures, including President Jalal Talabani.
In a separate mission, US Republican presidential hopeful John
McCain was meeting Iraqi leaders as well as US military officials to assess the success of the "surge" strategy that deployed more soldiers to Iraq, his aides said.
Cheney's unheralded visit marks the first stop on a nine-day tour of the Middle East and beyond. (AFP)
Cheney on surprise visit to Iraq