BAGHDAD, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday the United States is committed to keeping all sorts of experts on hand to help Iraq as U.S. troops pull out.
"We're going to have in country not only diplomatic experts but experts on trade, agriculture, education, healthcare, transportation, rule of law, energy, security and the list goes on, because I don't know about you, Mr. Prime Minister, but occasionally I at home have to explain why we have such a large embassy here," Biden said in a joint appearance with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki after a meeting of the U.S.-Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee.
Biden said a new phase in the U.S.-Iraq relationship had begun under the guidelines of the Strategic Framework Agreement signed by the two nations.
"We are here for one reason and only one reason: to assist in the development of the capacity of this great nation," Biden said. "Because as you develop, as you reach your potential which has been … stunted by Saddam and terror following it, it is good for the whole world, it will bring stability to this region. That is our sole interest in Iraq. Period. End of story."
Biden said Iraq and the United States have a "long-term strategic agreement" that goes "well beyond security."
"The SFA is a lasting agreement, and one that serves as the foundation on which we are building a durable and mutually beneficial relationship," Biden said earlier. "Today, we gather again in Baghdad to reaffirm our commitment to this important partnership and to the principles of cooperation, sovereignty, and mutual respect articulated in the SFA."
The White House said in a written statement the SFA covers a range of areas of cooperation, including trade, diplomacy, education and energy development.
Biden and Maliki exchanged plenty of pleasantries before sitting down, including an invitation to Maliki to visit the United States. There were no statements about the new spike in tensions between Britain and Iraq's neighbor, Iran, made while reporters were present.