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U.S. Declaring Formal End Of Iraq Combat

U.S. President Barack Obama opposed the March 2003 invasion of Iraq and pledged during his 2008 campaign for president that he would end the war.

The United States is preparing to formally declare the end of its combat operations in Iraq -- 7 1/2 years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein's regime.

President Barack Obama was due on August 31 to deliver a televised speech from the Oval Office addressing the end of Iraqi combat operations, the United States' future role in Iraq, and the U.S. shift of focus toward fighting Taliban militants in Afghanistan.

Obama, who opposed the March 2003, invasion of Iraq, pledged during his 2008 campaign for president that he would end the war.

Despite the formal end of combat operations, the United States is maintaining just under 50,000 heavily-armed troops in Iraq to train Iraqi soldiers, assist with reconstruction work, and help Iraqi forces respond to any potential security challenges.

The remaining U.S. troops are scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of 2011.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has arrived in Baghdad to formally mark the end of combat operations.

U.S. officials said Biden planned to meet with Iraqi leaders to assure them that the United States is not abandoning Iraq, but seeks to build a long-term partnership with the country.

Biden is also expected to urge the leaders of Iraq's political factions to agree a power-sharing pact to allow the formation of a coalition government, which still has not been formed, six months after Iraq held inconclusive elections.

Biden on September 1 is expected to attend a U.S. military ceremony in Iraq formally marking the end of combat operations.

The Iraq war, launched by Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, had the stated goal of finding and destroying Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. No such weapons were found in Iraq.

compiled from agency reports