By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Oct. 20, 2009 - The importance of holding the Iraqi elections on time in January and furthering Iraqi-U.S. economic ties were at the center of discussions between President Barack Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at the White House today. In a demonstration of how far the mission in Iraq has come, the first minutes of the leaders' media availability after their meeting concerned Afghanistan - something that would have been inconceivable two years ago.
The prime minister is in the United States as part of a high-level Iraqi delegation working to attract businesses to the country. "We didn't just talk about military and security issues," Obama said. "What is wonderful about this trip is that it represents a transition in our bilateral relationship so that we are moving now to issues beyond security, and we are beginning to talk about economy, trade, commerce."
The president did speak about the U.S. interest in getting the Iraqi election law in place on time so national elections can move forward in January. "I re-emphasized my commitment to Prime Minister Maliki that we will have our combat troops out of Iraq by August of next year, and all of our troops out of Iraq by 2011," he said.
Obama praised Iraq for the progress it has made. "We've seen over the last several months progress being made on providing clarification about investment laws inside of Iraq," Obama said. "There are obviously enormous opportunities for our countries to do business together."
Maliki also noted that U.S.-Iraqi relations have moved beyond simply security measures. "We have discussed the issues of common interest to our bilateral relations ... that are today framed under the strategic framework agreement and the various sectors, and all this is important for broader relation of our two nations," Maliki said through a translator.
The prime minister welcomed all investors to his country. He said there is no reason to be afraid to invest in Iraq.
"Iraq has moved beyond a dictatorship and beyond the destruction, and we are trying to rebuild all our sectors of agriculture, oil sectors, tourism and so forth," he said. "We want to give the U.S. companies an opportunity to be present in investing in Iraq, and [in] all this cooperation on the basis of the strategic framework agreement."