By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Nov. 28, 2007 - The government of Iraq appreciates the efforts and sacrifices of U.S. servicemembers engaged in the country's fight against insurgents, and it desires a continued American troop presence as Iraqi security forces improve in numbers and capability, an Iraqi government spokesman said today. The U.S.-Iraq Declaration of Principles for Friendship and Cooperation signed by President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki during a Nov. 26 videoconference signifies American recognition of Iraq's sovereignty and also of the United States' continued commitment of support for Iraq, Ali al-Dabbagh said during a conference call with online "bloggers" and reporters.
The declaration "is a shared statement of intent that establishes common principles to frame our future relationship," Dabbagh explained, noting the document moves the two countries further along the path to normalized bilateral relations.
The leaders of Iraq and the United States have committed to begin negotiations regarding formal arrangements and relations, Dabbagh said. The envisioned relationship includes American and Iraqi cooperation "in the political, diplomatic, economic and security arenas," he added.
Under the declaration, the United States will assist Iraq in recovering funds illegally sent out of the country and will assist in efforts to encourage foreign investment, Dabbagh noted. The United States, he added, also will continue to support programs that train, equip and field Iraqi security forces.
The number of U.S. troops in Iraq will reflect the status of Iraqi security forces, Dabbagh said. American troop presence in Iraq will diminish as Iraqi soldiers and police gain in numbers and capability, he noted.
Dabbagh acknowledged the positive effects of the surge of forces in reducing insurgent-committed violence in and around the Iraq's capital city and western regions.
"With the improvement of the security situation in Baghdad and the west area and now even in Diyala (province), I think the level of the threat has been less now," the Iraqi spokesman said.
The improvement in security, he said, has bolstered hopes that Iraqi soldiers and police can begin taking more responsibility for security.
However, "we still need the support of the American troops and the multinational troops," Dabbagh emphasized, in order to completely defeat the insurgents.
"The threat from the terrorist organizations is not limited to Iraq," he pointed out, adding that Iraq is at the forefront in the fight against terrorism in the Middle East region.
Iraqis are grateful for America's role in releasing them from Saddam Hussein's tyranny and for current U.S. military efforts to keep the country free from insurgent domination, Dabbagh said.
"The Iraqi people will not forget all the sacrifice of the United States' people," he vowed.