Kerry urges Iraqi leaders to rise above sectarianism

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (left) and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri address the media before a meeting at a hotel in Cairo on June 22, 2014. US Secretary of State John Kerry on a surprise Egypt visit on Sunday urged Iraqi leade
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (left) and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri address the media before a meeting at a hotel in Cairo on June 22, 2014. US Secretary of State John Kerry on a surprise Egypt visit on Sunday urged Iraqi leaders to rise above "sectarian considerations", at a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

CAIRO (AFP) - US Secretary of State John Kerry on a surprise Egypt visit Sunday urged Iraqi leaders to rise above "sectarian considerations", and said Washington was "not responsible" for the crisis there.

Mr Kerry had arrived in Cairo as part of a diplomatic mission to push Egypt toward democracy, but also to discuss the crisis in Iraq, where Sunni militants have made new advances in an offensive that has alarmed the world.

"ISIL (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant)... it's an ideology of violence and repression, is a threat not only to Iraq but the entire region... this is a critical moment when we must urge Iraq's leaders to rise above sectarian considerations... and speak to all people," Mr Kerry said at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri.

Mr Kerry also said that the "US is not engaged in picking or choosing any one individual... it's up to the people of Iraq to choose their own leadership".

"The United States of America is not responsible for what happened in Libya, nor is it responsible for what is happening in Iraq today," he said.

"The United States shed blood and worked hard for years for the Iraqis to have their own governance... but ISIL crossed the line from Syria, began plotting internally. They have attacked communities and they are the ones marching through to disrupt the ability of Iraq to have the governance it wants.

"This is about ISIL's terrorist designs on the state of Iraq."