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US Kerry arrives in Iraq to back newly formed gov't in battle against IS

US Secretary of State John Kerry looks out over Baghdad from a helicopter.
US Secretary of State John Kerry looks out over Baghdad from a helicopter.
US Secretary of State John Kerry looks out over Baghdad from a helicopter.

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Baghdad today in an unannounced stop on a Middle East anti-jihadist tour to build military, political and financial support to defeat Islamic State militants controlling parts of Iraq and Syria.

Kerry said he was impressed by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's plans to rebuild the Iraqi military and push broad political reforms.

Abadi formed a new, more inclusive, Iraqi government on Monday in a move Washington said was vital before there could be further US action to help push back the militants who took over large parts of northern Iraq this year.

Kerry told Abadi he was "encouraged" by his plans for "reconstituting" the military and "your commitment to broad reforms that are necessary in Iraq to bring every segment of Iraqi society to the table."

Abadi appealed to the international community to help Iraq fight Islamic State, urging them "to act immediately to stop the spread of this cancer".

"Of course our role is to defend our country, but the international community is responsible for protecting Iraq and protecting Iraqis and the whole region," Abadi said.

Kerry's tour will include Saudi Arabia and probably other Arab capitals.

Last week nine countries, most of them in Europe, were named as the core group of a coalition US President Barack Obama says will degrade and destroy Islamic State, which has declared a caliphate in land it took over and executed many prisoners, including two American journalists who were beheaded.

Two days after Iraq formed a new government, Kerry arrived in Baghdad to "take it to the next level", as a senior US official put it, and find a way to defeat Islamic State.

Abadi faces multiple crises from the need to pull Sunni Muslims back from armed revolt to persuading minority Kurds not to break away and convincing Abadi's own majority Shi'ites he can protect them from Sunni hardliners.

Kerry highlighted Abadi's readiness "to move forward rapidly on the oil agreements necessary for the Kurds, (and) on the representation of Sunnis in government and participation."

His visit comes hours before a speech in which Obama will try to rally Americans behind another war in a region he has long sought to leave, backed by what Washington hopes will be a coalition of NATO and Gulf Arab allies committed to a campaign that could stretch beyond the end of Obama's term in 2016.

VIOLENCE SURGE

But while the United States hailed the new government as a breakthrough, sectarian tensions appeared as entrenched as ever, possibly worsened by a month of US air strikes on Sunni jihadists.

Three car bombs exploded today in a Shi'ite neighbourhood in eastern Baghdad, killing nine people and wounding 29, a police officer said.

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Tags:  US  Kerry  Islamic State  Baghdad  Abadi  Iraq  World  





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