- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 20, 2009

President Obama said Tuesday the United States still plans to remove all combat troops from Iraq by August 2010 but that the country has stabilized enough for leaders of both countries to move beyond just military and security issues.

“We are beginning to talk about economy, trade, commerce,” said Mr. Obama, following a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. “We’ve seen over the last several months progress being made on providing clarification about investment laws inside of Iraq. There are obviously enormous opportunities for our countries to do business together.”

Mr. al-Maliki is in Washington with a delegation of roughly 1,000 high-level Iraqi officials and entrepreneurs for a conference to encourage U.S. investment.

“Our relationship will no longer be confined to security cooperation,” Mr. al-Maliki said in Arabic.

He also asked the United States to remove economic sanctions.

“We no longer have weapons of mass destruction… . Iraq has moved beyond dictatorship,” said Mr. al-Maliki, who began with the traditional Muslim opening of “bism Allah al Rahman al Raheem,” translated to “in the name of God, the merciful, compassionate.”

President Obama also vowed again to have all U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of 2011 and said he is watching to see whether Iraq has election laws in place so that critical nationwide voting can occur on time in January. It was the same message Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. delivered a day earlier.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was among U.S. representatives at the investment conference, which ends Wednesday.

“The plan for the withdrawal of troops is well under way,” she said. “What we see [in Iraq] is a new sense of commitment to the future.”

• Joseph Weber can be reached at jweber@washingtontimes.com.old.

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