Washington: The US would have no military bases inside Iraq once it withdraws its troops from the country but will continue to have a strong presence in the Middle East, President Barack Obama has said.
"We're taking all of our troops out of Iraq. We will not have any bases inside of Iraq. We will have a strong diplomatic presence inside of Iraq," Obama said at a news conference along with the visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
However, he warned regional players against trying to interfere in the affairs of Iraq, contending that "our strong presence in the Middle East endures" and the US would never waver in defence of its allies and partners.
"Just as Iraq has pledged not to interfere in other nations, other nations must not interfere in Iraq. Iraq's sovereignty must be respected," he said.
"Meanwhile, there should be no doubt, the drawdown in Iraq has allowed us to refocus our resources, achieve progress in Afghanistan, put al Qaeda on the path to defeat, and to better prepare for the full range of challenges that lie ahead," he added.
The US President said following the withdrawal of troops the goal is to have a comprehensive relationship with Iraq that includes everything from expanding trade and commerce, to scientific exchanges, to provide help in infrastructure.
"What may be discovered is, that there are certain issues that Prime Minister Maliki and his government think are especially important right now -- for example, making sure that oil production is ramped up, and we are helping to encourage global investment in that sector," he said.
"Our goal is simply to make sure that Iraq succeeds, because we think a successful, democratic Iraq can be a model for the entire region. We think an Iraq that is inclusive and brings together all people -- Sunni, Shia, Kurd -- together to build a country, to build a nation, can be a model for others that are aspiring to create democracy in the region," Obama said.