President Obama Welcomes Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ( video)

President Obama met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Monday to discuss the end of the Iraq war and the steps necessary to realize a new phase in the relationship between the two countries.

Since the President has taken office, nearly 150,000 U.S. servicemembers have left Iraq, and hundreds of bases have been closed. Before the end of the year, the last of our troops will cross the border and return home. After nine years, the war is over.

The President and the Prime Minister met at the White House — first for a bilateral session in the Oval Office where they were joined by Vice President Joe Biden, then for a joint press conference.

Before answering questions from reports, President Obama said:

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki shake hands during a joint press availability in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, Dec. 12, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Today, I’m proud to welcome Prime Minister Maliki — the elected leader of a sovereign, self-reliant and democratic Iraq. We’re here to mark the end of this war; to honor the sacrifices of all those who made this day possible; and to turn the page — begin a new chapter in the history between our countries — a normal relationship between sovereign nations, an equal partnership based on mutual interests and mutual respect.

Iraq faces great challenges, but today reflects the impressive progress that Iraqis have made.  Millions have cast their ballots — some risking or giving their lives — to vote in free elections. The Prime Minister leads Iraq’s most inclusive government yet. Iraqis are working to build institutions that are efficient and independent and transparent.

Nearly 4,500 Americans lost their lives in the Iraq War. After the press conference, President Obama and Prime Minister Maliki visited the Arlington National Cemetery where they participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

20111212 Arlington President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki participate in a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Va., Dec. 12, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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