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Iraq Confirms Syrian Air Strikes Against Militants

June 26, 2014

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has told the BBC he supports a Syrian air strike on Islamist militants at a border crossing between Syria and Iraq.

Military and rebel sources said the strike took place inside Iraq at the Al-Qaim border crossing, but Maliki said it was carried out on the Syrian side.

Militants from an Al-Qaeda splinter group, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), have overrun large parts of territory in northern and western Iraq.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague, on a surprise visit to Baghdad on June 26, called on Iraqi leaders to unite in the face of the militants' offensive.

In Paris on June 26, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is holding a series of meetings with officials from Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan to discuss the Iraqi crisis.

Meanwhile, Iraq's presidency said a session of parliament would be held on July 1, the first step to forming a new government after April elections.

The announcement comes a day after Maliki, a member of Iraq's Shi'ite majority, rejected calls, mainly from Sunni political and religious leaders, to form a national salvation government, calling it a 'coup against the constitution.'

Maliki's political bloc won the most seats in the April 30 elections, but he needs support from other groups to govern with a majority.

Maliki has faced widespread criticism for stoking sectarian tensions between Shi'a, Sunnis, and Kurds by his failure to form a more inclusive government.

Masud Barzani, the president of the northern Kurdish automous region, on June 26 visited Kirkuk for the first time since Kuridsh forces took full control of the city.

Kurdish forces took positions in the oil-rich northern city after Iraqi government troops withdrew two weeks ago amid mounting fears of a militant takeover.

The United Nations says more than 1,000 people have been killed during the Sunni insurgents' advance.

The UN also said close to a million people have been displaced in Iraq this year, prompting one UN official to call the country 'a land of displacement.'

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops back to Iraq, but has offered up to 300 U.S. military advisers, about 130 of whom have now been deployed.

Iraqi state TV reported on June 25 that newly arrived Pentagon advisers had met Baghdad's operations commander and agreed to set up a joint operation command.

Meanwhile, militants are reported to have overrun the Ajil oil site, some 30 kilometers east of Tikrit.

Ajil is connected to two pipelines, including one running to the Baiji oil refinery, which militants have been trying to seize for more than a week.

On June 25, state TV showed troop reinforcements being flow into Baiji to fend off the assault on the strategic industrial complex some 200 kilometers north of Baghdad.

With reporting by BBC, Reuters, dpa, and AP

Source: talks-on-iraq-crisis/25435594.html

Copyright (c) 2014. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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