WASHINGTON - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Dec. 5 expressed confidence in the future of his country following a full withdrawal of U.S. troops at the end of the month. But he said he was counting on American assistance.
U.S. President Barack Obama announced in October that U.S. troops would leave Iraq by the end of 2011, bringing to a close an almost nine-year war.
"Today, however, I am confident about the future of my country and the capabilities and resilience of our people," Maliki wrote in an op-ed piece in The Washington Post.
He said his government was seeking a "comprehensive redevelopment" of the country, which would involve creation of legislation and institutions, strengthening of freedoms, and reinforcement of Iraqi democracy.
"We want to build a state of citizens and not sects," Maliki wrote. "We want to create a healthy environment conducive to investment and provide vital services to citizens, including access to a proper education."
The prime minister said Iraq sought to build a strong army and security forces that have the capacity to protect its sovereignty and interests.
"We are able to do this with the help of the United States," he said.
Maliki said Baghdad opposed foreign interference in Iraqi affairs. "Iraq does not aspire to unduly influence any state but looks to cooperate with all countries to help maintain regional security," he wrote. "Iraq will not allow itself to become a source of disruption to friendly countries."
In contrast to the government of Saddam Hussein, the new Iraqi government has been treating neighboring Iran as a friendly state.