As Iraq moves forward on the path of reconstruction and economic revival with the end of war and withdrawal of American forces from the country, it is expected to grow much faster than the two Asian giants, India and China, US President Barack Obama said on Monday.
"In the coming years, it's estimated that Iraq's economy will grow even faster than China's or India's. With oil production rising, Iraq is on track to once again be one of the region's leading oil producers," Obama said at a joint news conference with visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Obama said as in the coming days the last American soldiers will leave its borders, Iraq is now forging new ties of trade and commerce with its neighbours and Iraq is assuming its rightful place among the community of nations.
"For the first time in two decades, Iraq is scheduled to host the next Arab League summit. And what a powerful message that will send throughout the Arab world," he said.
"People throughout the region will see a new Iraq that's determining its own destiny, a country in which people from different religious sects and ethnicities can resolve their differences peacefully through the democratic process," he said, adding that the US will pursue a long-term partnership with Iraq.
"This is in keeping with our strategic framework agreement, and it will be like the close relationships we have with other sovereign nations," he said.
"This is a historic moment. A war is ending. A new day is upon us. And let us never forget those who gave us this chance: the untold number of Iraqis who've given their lives; more than 1 million Americans, military and civilian, who have served in Iraq; nearly 4,500 fallen Americans who gave their last full measure of devotion; tens of thousands of wounded warriors and so many inspiring military families," Obama said.
The Iraqi Prime Minister said that the relationship with the US will not end with the departure of the last American soldier.
"It only started when it was signed in 2008, in addition to the withdrawal treaty, the strategic framework agreement for the relationship between our two countries," he noted.
"Iraq now has become reliant completely on its own security apparatus and internal security as a result of the expertise that it gained during the confrontations and the training and equipping, but it remains a need of cooperation with the United States of America in the security issues and information and combating terrorism and in the area of training and the area of equipping which is needed by the Iraqi army, and we have started that," the Prime Minister said.
Meanwhile the Obama administration on Monday notified to the Congress of its intent to sell Iraq a second tranche of 18 F-16s.
"This sale is another indication of the continuing US-Iraqi security relationship and cooperation. It also illustrates the progress Iraq has made in providing for its own security, and its determination to protect its sovereignty and independence," a senior administration official said.
Responding to questions, Obama said the US will be working to set up effective military-to-military ties that are no different from the ties that it has with countries throughout the region and around the world.
"The Iraqi government has already purchased F-16s from us. We've got to train their pilots and make sure that they're up and running and that we have an effective Iraqi air force. You know, we both have interests in making sure that the sea lanes remain open in and around Iraq and throughout the region. And so there may be occasion for joint exercises," he said.
"We both have interests in counter terrorism operations that might undermine Iraqi sovereignty, but also could affect US interests. And we'll be working together on those issues," Obama said.