Maliki to meet Obama, seek support for investment
Wed Jul 22, 2009 12:10pm GMT Print | Single Page[-] Text [+] By Ross Colvin
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki meets President Barack Obama on Wednesday in a visit aimed at asserting Iraq's newfound sovereignty and encouraging foreign investors to return to the war-ravaged country.
Three weeks after U.S. troops withdrew from Iraqi towns and cities, paving the way for a full withdrawal by the end of 2011, both Washington and Baghdad are eager to show their relationship has moved into a new phase, one that will see more emphasis placed on non-military cooperation.
Maliki will also hold talks with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and attend an investment conference, U.S. officials said.
"The visit will highlight the non-security ties and lay the groundwork for future economic cooperation and trade," one official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Maliki's Shi'ite Muslim-led government is aggressively courting foreign investors as it struggles to resurrect an economy calcified by decades of sanctions, neglect and war.
During his trip to the United States this week, Maliki will tout Iraq's improved security after six years of conflict that saw tens of thousands of people killed in insurgent and sectarian violence and millions more forced from their homes.
More than 4,300 American soldiers have died in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein. There are still 130,000 U.S. troops in the country.
But investors remain unsure whether Iraq's legal and regulatory framework will offer them sufficient protection, and while violence has dipped sharply, major bomb attacks are not uncommon. Iraq is also riven by deep divisions among majority Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds. Continued...