Clinton assures Iraqis of US support despite withdrawal (Lead)

April 26th, 2009 - 1:04 am ICT by IANS  

Baghdad, April 25 (DPA) US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton assured Iraqis Saturday that America would continue to support them even as it withdrew combat troops.
“Our strategy working with you may be a new phase, but I pledge our full and continuing commitment to Iraq and the Iraqi people,” Clinton said in a press conference with her Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari, at the end of her one-day unannounced visit.

“We are committed to see an Iraq that is sovereign, stable and self-reliant and fully integrated into the region… We will stand with you as you build a future worthy of the children of Iraq,” she told reporters.

Clinton emphasized that the end of US military deployment would come by 2011, and that US forces in Iraq were shifting power to Iraqi forces and would “continue to train and equip these forces so they will take the lead in safeguarding their country”.

The US secretary of state however underlined that her country would uphold strategic agreements with Iraq and “as we draw down militarily we will deepen our civilian cooperation. We will work on development, diplomatic and the regional agenda which includes border security and refugees”.

Clinton’s trip - her first to Iraq as secretary of state - comes after two days of suicide bombings in Baghdad and elsewhere that left at least 155 dead.

“I condemn these violent recent efforts to disrupt this progress that Iraq is making. My heart and America’s sympathy go to those who have died and the families who have suffered. This violence has only reinforced the Iraqi people determination to seek a better future to their country,” she said.

Earlier in the day, Clinton met Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and other senior leaders in the Iraqi government, with whom she discussed issues of security, stability operations and assistance, according to a statement from the US State Department.

Clinton also met new US Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill and Multinational Force Iraq Commander Odierno, with whom she discussed the administration’s new direction and change of mission for US forces in Iraq, the statement said.

While Clinton said “it was most encouraging to see the progress in Iraq” during her encounters with officials, she added that she specially appreciated the chance to meet with Iraqis.

These meetings included an encounter with a group of war widows, and what she described as “a historic townhall meeting with people who are representing a broad section of Iraqis.”

Clinton is due to depart later Saturday for Kuwait.

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