“I do believe that there is a greater sense of urgency now than I’d seen previously,” Cheney told reporters. The security situation also presented Cheney with a reality check. Iraqi leaders “believe we are making progress, but we’ve got a long way to go,” the vice president said, a point punctuated by an explosion that shook windows at the U.S. Embassy, where he held his meetings. As Democrats clamor for an end to the four-year-old war and Bush sags in the polls, the White House is under intense political pressure to show that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government is making progress. White House counselor Dan Bartlett said in Washington that Cheney’s trip “gives an opportunity at a very high level for this message to be delivered.” Eight days after Bush vetoed a bill setting deadlines for U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq, the White House also served notice that Bush would veto a follow-up bill drafted by House Democratic leaders that would pay for the Iraq war only into summer. At the same time, Defense Secretary Robert Gates held out hope that troops can begin withdrawing if the Iraqi government makes progress by fall. Supporters of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr rallied in Baghdad and Shiite areas to the south to protest the Cheney visit and demand the withdrawal of American forces. Protesters in Baghdad and the holy city of Najaf chanted “No to the occupation” and “No to America.” Baghdad was Cheney’s first stop on a weeklong trip to the Middle East to seek support from moderate Arab leaders for help in bringing stability to Iraq. The vice president, joined by Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, met with Iraqi political and military leaders. Earlier, the vice president appeared with al-Maliki, and the prime minister said they had discussed “the challenges that we are facing in our own political process.” Cheney spent most of the day at the U.S. Embassy inside the heavily protected Green Zone in central Baghdad. He was in the building when an explosion rattled windows and prompted officials to move reporters accompanying Cheney to the basement for several minutes. Witnesses said a mortar or rocket appeared to have been fired from the mostly Shiite areas on the east side of the Tigris River toward the Green Zone.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! BAGHDAD – Vice President Dick Cheney, often the White House point man for getting tough on Democrats, played that role with Iraqi officials on Wednesday. He got a friendlier response than the administration’s been receiving on Capitol Hill – but not everything he wanted. Cheney was asked how he fared with the message he carried from President George W. Bush that Iraq’s parliament should abandon plans for a two-month summer vacation while important political reconciliation measures remain stalled. The vice president had little to offer beyond repeating Washington’s view that “any undue delay would be difficult to explain” while U.S. forces are going to Iraq in greater numbers and fighting difficult and deadly battles. “I think they’re somewhat sympathetic to our concerns,” he said of his Iraqi counterparts. “That’s a sovereign issue for them.” The vice president gave a slightly more positive observation on the commitment of Iraqi leaders to meeting those benchmarks considered crucial to deffusing sectarian tensions, such as devising an equitable way to distribute oil revenues, expanding political participation in Iraq and cracking down on violent militias.