The United States will continue to support Iraq as it moves toward democracy, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Saturday as she wrapped up a week-long overseas trip.
Without mentioning Iran by name, Clinton warned Iraq's neighbors against meddling and said the U.S. and Iraq would remain close allies.
"As we open this new chapter in a relationship with sovereign Iraq, to the Iraqis we say: America is with you as you take your next steps in your journey to secure your democracy," she said.
"And to countries in the region, especially Iraq's neighbors, we want to emphasize that America will stand with our allies and friends, including Iraq, in defense of our common security and interests."
She said the United States would have a "robust, continuing presence throughout the region, which is proof of our ongoing commitment to Iraq and to the future of that region."
U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday declared the more than eight-year Iraq war will be over by the end of the year and said that virtually all U.S. troops will be brought home. Some 200 troops will remain to provide security at the U.S. Embassy and other offices.
Critics of the president warn that by withdrawing its troops, the U.S. is giving Iran an opening to increase its influence in Iraq.
Clinton is due back in Washington on Sunday following stops in North Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
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