US to leave Iraq by end of 2011: Obama

"We'll move forward with our strategy to responsibly remove all American combat brigades from Iraq by the end of next August, and to fulfill our commitment to remove all American troops from Iraq by the end of 2011," Obama told reporters at a joint press conference with Maliqi at the White House yesterday.

Referring to the decisions to transfer control of all Iraqi cities and towns to Iraq's security forces, Obama said this transition was part of US's security agreement, and should send an unmistakable signal that the United States will keep its commitments with the sovereign Iraqi government.

"As I said before, we seek no bases in Iraq, nor do we make any claim on Iraq's territory or resources," he said.

Acknowledging that the transition is not going to be smooth, Obama said: "As we move forward, Prime Minister Maliki and I have no doubt that there will be some tough days ahead."

There will be attacks on Iraqi security forces and the American troops supporting them. 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," he asserted. Obama said that 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."

"The future does not belong to those who would destroy- it belongs to those who would build," he said.

America 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 prosperity, he said.

"Prime Minister Maliqi and I also agreed to build a broader basis for cooperation between our nations. The United States and Iraq have known difficult times together. Now both of us agree that the bonds forged between Americans and Iraqis in war can pave the way for progress that can be forged in peace," Obama said.

In his statement before the press, Maliqi said: "I have discussed today with President Obama about ways in order to activate the strategic relationship on the economic front, cultural front, educational front, commercial front, and in every possible area where the United States can play a role in supporting the Iraqi government.

"And the efforts of the Iraqi government to build a state of law, a state based on constitution and federalism that works for the aspiration of its own people, using the wealth of that country and that nation," Maliqi said. Noting that Iraq has suffered from being marginalised, from the policies of sectarianism, and from wars, the Iraqi Primie Minister said: "We will work very hard in order not to allow any sectarian behavior an opportunity to flourish. We will work on a national plan where all sons of Iraq and all daughters of Iraq are equal in their contribution and in their services."

"They will be unified by Iraq; they will not be divided by other elements. We will strengthen the relationship between the people of Iraq," he added.

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