2014-06-19 01:47:13

US Vice President Biden urges Iraqis to unite against ISIS

US Vice President Joe Biden has spoken to key Iraqi leaders to urge them to unite against an insurgency led by jihadists. Washington is mulling ways it might help the Iraqi government, with air strikes not ruled out.
Biden spoke separately to the three leaders on Wednesday, urging them to show unity and form an inclusive government after national elections that were held in April.

The vice president telephoned Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki - who leads the Shiite-dominated government - as well as Sunni leader Osama al-Nujaifi and Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani, to offer support in thwarting the advance of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

"In each call, the vice president also stressed the need for national unity in responding to the ISIS threat against all Iraqi communities, for coordination on security issues going forward, and for moving forward with urgency in forming a new government under the constitution," the White House said.

With Maliki in particular, Biden was said to have stressed the need for the prime minister to govern in an inclusive manner, promoting stability and unity.

The vice president also discussed steps to defeat ISIS, which has seized vast areas of the north of the country, the White House statement said. The Islamist militants have made swift gains against an Iraqi army said to lack morale, discipline and training and plagued by sectarian divisions.

On Wednesday, ISIS fighters controlled some three-quarters of the territory of the Baiji refinery north of Baghdad, one of Iraq's largest refineries, according to one official. However, Iraqi forces have said they are making progress against the insurgents, claiming to have retaken parts of the strategic city of Tal Afar, near the Syrian border. Tal Afar, which lies roughly 60 kilometers east of the Syrian border on the road to Mosul, fell under ISIS power on Monday. However, any gains by the Iraqi government in and around the strategic town were unconfirmed.

Chairman of the US military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, confirmed on Wednesday that Iraq had asked the US for air support to defeat ISIS fighters. He signaled that the US military was in no hurry to launch airstrikes given the chaotic situation on the ground and a lack of clear targets.

Obama on Wednesday held an hour-long meeting with congressional leaders about Washington's options in Iraq. An official said afterward that Obama had not laid out a course of action at the meeting and that he was yet to make a final decision.

(agencies, imedia)

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