Clinton was spending one day in the insurgency-ridden Iraqi capital, during which she met top US civilian and military officials including US overseer Paul Bremer and ground forces commander Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez. 

She also lunched with troops from her home state of New York in the dining hall at the former city centre palace of ousted leader Saddam Hussein, which is now the seat of the US-led occupation administration. 

Unlike the US president, who never left the main military camp at Baghdad airport during his two-and-a-half hour stopover, Clinton then left the heavily fortified complex around the palace to go and visit troops. 

Hearts and minds

She also met Iraqi officials, including the sole woman member of the US-installed interim cabinet, public works minister Nasrin Mustafa Sadiq Barwari. 

Photo-op  with an Iraqi civilian
working for the US army

Clinton warned that the US-led occupation still faced many enemies in Iraq and urged the US administration to change its reconstruction strategy to allow the United Nations a greater role in postwar Iraq. 

"It is no longer sufficient for our military to win battles but they have to win the hearts and minds. It is a very big challenge," said Clinton, who visited Baghdad as part of a tour of conflict zones that saw her spend Thanksgiving with US troops in Afghanistan. 

"We are in a very difficult political situation, trying to expedite a process for self-governance that will be very challenging," Clinton said. "We have a lot of adversaries that wish us and the Iraqi people nothing but bad news."

UN role

Clinton said it was still not too late to give the United Nations a leading role in administering Iraq to relieve expense and pressure from the US-led occupiers, but was pessimistic this would take place. 

Clinton at a meeting with
prominent Iraqi women

"We face a very big hill to climb. We face a complex security situation. The process of putting together self-governance in a short period of time is very difficult. We still need more help, more support from the international community." 

"I am a big believer that we ought to internationalise this, but it will take a big change in our administration's thinking," Clinton said. "I don't see that it is forthcoming." 

The former first lady, who is now a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said she had "wanted to come to Iraq to let the troops know about the great job they are doing."