US V-P Biden calls Iraqi PM after massive July death toll

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Vice-President Joe Biden spoke on Saturday with Iraqi leader Nouri al-Maliki, two days after government figures showed that July was the war-battered country's deadliest month in more than five years.

Authorities have failed to stem a massive spike in violence that has killed more than 3,000 people since the beginning of the year, while Mr Maliki's government has cracked down on protests against its rule.

Mr Biden, who was appointed by President Barack Obama as the US pointman on Iraq in early 2009, has visited the country on several occasions.

"The Vice-President expressed his condolences on behalf of the American people for the victims of terrorist violence in Iraq," the White House said in a statement released after Saturday's telephone call.

"Both leaders confirmed the need to strengthen bilateral cooperation under the Strategic Framework Agreement to support Iraq's efforts in finding those responsible for the recent attacks and bringing them to justice."

Iraqi government figures published on Thursday put the July death toll from violence at 989, while the United Nations said 1,057 people were killed.

The government tally was the highest monthly figure since April 2008.

Deadly attacks occur daily in Iraq. Mr Maliki on Friday accused unspecified "neighbouring countries" of backing militants in Iraq, and said such activity would come back to haunt them.

"The Vice President emphasised that Al-Qaeda remains a shared enemy of Iraq, the United States, and the entire world," the White House statement said.

Although the United States and Iraq have maintained ties since the departure of American troops in 2011, the two have clashed on numerous issues, notably over allegations that Iraq is allowing Iranian overflights to supply arms to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a close ally of Teheran.

The White House statement said Mr Biden and Mr Maliki discussed the situation in Syria, noting "the importance of working together to isolate extremists on all sides of the conflict".

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