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President Obama's news conference -- full text

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OBAMA: I'm not going to engage in — in hypotheticals of that sort. I feel confident that that nuclear arsenal will remain out of militant hands.

OK, Jeff Mason?

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. One of the biggest changes you've made in the first 100 days regarding foreign policy has had to do with Iraq. But do the large-scale — there's large-scale violence there right now. Does that affect the U.S. strategy at all for withdrawal? And could it affect the timetable that you've set out for troops?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, I think it's important to note that, although you've seen some spectacular bombings in Iraq that are a — a legitimate cause of concern, civilian deaths, incidents of bombings, etc., remain very low relative to what was going on last year, for example.

And so you haven't seen the kinds of huge spikes that you were seeing for a time. The political system is holding and functioning in Iraq.

Part of the reason why I called for a gradual withdrawal as opposed to a precipitous one was precisely because more work needs to be done on the political side to further isolate whatever remnants of al-Qaida in Iraq still exist.

And I'm very confident that, with our commander on the ground, Gen. Odierno, with Chris Hill, our new ambassador, having been approved and already getting his team in place, that they are going to be able to work effectively with the Maliki government to create the conditions for an ultimate transfer after the national elections.

But there's some — some serious work to do on making sure that how they divvy up oil revenues is ultimately settled, what the provincial powers are and boundaries, the relationship between the Kurds and the central government, the relationship between the Shia and the Kurds. Are they incorporating effectively Sunnis, Sons of Iraq, into the structure of the armed forces in a way that's equitable and just?

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