Biden: US troop exit marks new beginning with Iraq

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Vice President Joe Biden is emphasizing that the U.S. and Iraq will continue to have a relationship long after U.S. troops leave the country next month.

During a two-day visit to Baghdad, Biden said the troop pullout marks a new beginning in that relationship.

But protests against his visit are illustrating some of the difficulties the relationship will face. Followers of an anti-American cleric rallied today in Basra and Baghdad, chanting, "Biden get out of Iraq" and "No to America."

Many Iraqis have wondered why the United States will still have such a large presence there, even after the troop pullout. Biden says the U.S. needs to have experts in a wide range of areas in Iraq. The U.S. will also have thousands of security contractors there to protect the embassy's facilities in Baghdad and elsewhere, along with diplomatic personnel.

Biden says Iraq's development "will bring stability to the region" -- and he says that's the "sole interest" the United States has in Iraq.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says today's meetings with Biden were aimed at laying the groundwork for future cooperation.

(Copyright 2011, The Associated Press)

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