Biden meets Iraq officials and US commanders following troop pullback from urban centres.
“We will move forward with our strategy to responsibly remove American combat brigades from Iraq by the end of next August and fulfil our commitment to remove all American troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.”
Under the Status of Forces Agreement (Sofa), the US still has 130,000 troops in Iraq but they are supporting Iraqi government forces rather than providing security.
The Iraqi government is planning to hold a conference in October aimed at encouraging business investment into the country, al-Maliki said after Obama’s address.
“All of this comes as a natural reaction to the stability and direction of the Iraqi national unity government to provide reconstruction for our country, which was destroyed by war, dictatorship and adventures which affected its infrastructure and services,” he said.
Al-Maliki’s meeting with Obama was the first between the two leaders since US forces pulled out of Iraq’s urban centres at the end of June.
The talks came two months after al-Maliki hosted Obama in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital.
Nick Spicer, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Washington, said that the joint press conference contained few dramatic announcements.
“You might say that this press conference was dull and maybe that is the point,” he said.
“Previous visits by al-Maliki all hinged on whether he was going to stay in power – back at home he was seen as an American puppet unable to deal with the huge waves of violence and that it was the American soldiers’ job to deal with that.
|Bomb attacks remain a common occurrence in Iraq in the wake of the US pullout [AFP]|
“Now, the military security responsibility has been handed back to Iraqi forces in large part and al-Maliki is respected by-and-large as a capable leader in his own country.
“The point that the two leaders were trying to make today is that security is [less of] an issue and they can now talk about things that countries normally talk about – cultural co-operation, trade and investment, scientific co-operation, and so on.”
But Iraq still remains unstable in the wake of the US forces’ pullout from urban centres. At least 18 people were killed in separate attacks in Baghdad, Baquba and Ramadi on Tuesday.
Before meeting Obama, Al-Maliki met Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, in New York in an effort to ease UN sanctions imposed on Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
The Iraqi prime minister then held talks with envoys of the five permanent members
of the UN Security Council – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.
“We were able to clarify… that Iraq does not appear to be a threat to the international community any more,” al-Maliki told reporters after the meeting, saying that sanctions were “no longer required”.