Canada PM arrives in Iraq on surprise visit

Sat May 2, 2015 8:20am EDT
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BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrived in Iraq on Saturday for a surprise visit expected to include a meeting with Canadian soldiers advising Iraqi troops fighting Islamic State militants.

Canada has around 70 special forces in Kurdish areas of northern Iraq. Canadian jets are also taking part in a U.S.-led mission to bomb Islamic State positions in Iraq and Syria.

Harper, who faces a federal election in October, announced in March that Canada would extend its six-month mission by a year to April 2016.

Opposition politicians criticized the extension, accusing the Conservative government of "mission creep", saying Canada was being dragged into a war not of its own making.

(Reporting by Chris Wattie)

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper (center L) and Iraq's Kurdish regional President Massoud Barzani walk during a welcoming ceremony after arriving at the airport in Erbil, Iraq May 2, 2015. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari