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After meeting in Washington with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, President Barack Obama hailed the progress Iraq has made in the last few years:
"Violence continues to be down, and Iraqis are taking responsibility for their future. This progress has been made possible by the resilience of the Iraqi people and security forces and also because of the extraordinary service of American troops and civilians in Iraq."
The meeting between the two leaders came just 3 weeks after U.S. forces withdrew from Iraqi cities and towns, handing over responsibility for security to the Iraqis. The U.S. has committed to withdraw all American combat brigades by the end of August 2010, and to remove all American troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. In the meantime, the U.S. will continue to provide training and support to Iraq's security forces.
President Obama said that both he and Prime Minister Maliki know there will be tough days ahead:
"There are still those in Iraq who would murder innocent men, women and children. There are still those who want to foment sectarian conflict. But make no mistake: those efforts will fail. The Iraqi people have already rejected these forces of division and destruction. And American troops have the capability, the support and flexibility they need to stand with our Iraqi partners on behalf of a sovereign, secure and self-reliant Iraq."
Iraq and the United States are now in the process of building a broader basis for cooperation, said Mr. Obama:
"America stands ready to help the Iraqi government build their capacity to provide basic services and to promote the rule of law. And together Americans and Iraqis can expand economic cooperation and trade that opens new doors of opportunity."
President Obama emphasized that the U.S. strongly supports efforts by the Iraqi government "to promote national unity, which will help ensure that people in all parts of Iraq can live in peace and security." In addition, he pledged U.S. support for lifting remaining sanctions imposed by the U.N. after Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990. "It . . . would be a mistake," he said, "for Iraq to continue to be burdened by the sins of a deposed dictator."
By working together and broadening their engagement, the U.S. and Iraq have the opportunity, said Mr. Obama, "to advance security and prosperity throughout the region, and around the globe."