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US readies diplomatic push to unite Iraq's fractious leaders

Published on Jun 21, 2014 3:50 PM
 
Iraqi security forces, loyal to Muslim Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr take part in a military parade on June 21, 2014 in the shrine city of Najaf, in central Iraq. Washington readied a new diplomatic push to unite Iraq's fractious leaders on Saturday and repel a Sunni insurgent offensive that has put Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki under growing pressure domestically and overseas. -- PHOTO: AFP

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Washington readied a new diplomatic push to unite Iraq's fractious leaders on Saturday and repel a Sunni insurgent offensive that has put Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki under growing pressure domestically and overseas.

US President Barack Obama has offered hundreds of military advisers but his refusal so far to approve air strikes against militants, led by the jihadist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), has prompted Baghdad's powerful Shiite neighbour Iran to charge that Washington lacked the "will" to fight terror.

The swift militant onslaught, which has been carried out by ISIL as well as a litany of other groups including loyalists of now-executed dictator Saddam Hussein, has overrun swathes of territory north of Baghdad, displacing hundreds of thousands and threatening Iraq's very existence.

International leaders and Iraq's Shiite religious elite have called on the country to unite to face off the insurgent threat, with Secretary of State John Kerry this weekend heading to the Middle East and Europe in a push to stabilise the country. While Mr Kerry is also expected to travel to Iraq soon - on what would be his second visit since taking over as the top US diplomat in early 2013 - there is no clear timetable for when the trip will happen.

 
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