Obama declares an end to Iraq combat mission

US President Barack Obama formally declared an end to America's seven-year combat mission in Iraq, saying it was time to turn the page on a war which has cost thousands of Iraqi and US lives.

"Tonight, I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended," Obama said in excerpts of his speech released by the White House ahead of his Oval Office address to the nation at 8:00pm (0000 GMT).

"Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country," the US commander-in-chief added, drawing a close to the mission launched with the 2003 US-led invasion.

"Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility. Now, it is time to turn the page."

Less than 50,000 troops remain in Iraq, after the United States withdrew almost 100,000 soldiers, closed hundreds of bases and moved millions of pieces of equipment, Obama said.

US forces had made huge sacrifices and "spent vast resources abroad at a time of tight budgets at home," Obama said.

"We have persevered because of a belief we share with the Iraqi people a belief that out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization."

Some 4,427 US troops have been killed in Iraq and 34,268 wounded since the invasion ordered by former president George W. Bush to topple late dictator Saddam Hussein.

Exact figures for Iraqi casualties caught up in the eruption of sectarian violence in the wake of Saddam's fall are not known. But the website icasualties.org put it at more than 48,600.

source AFP

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