Kerry Meets with Syrian Opposition Leader in Saudi Arabia
by VOA News June 27, 2014
Meeting with U.S. Secretary John Kerry Friday in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Syrian opposition leader Ahmad al-Jarba asked for more foreign aid from the United States and Saudi Arabia as his rebels attempt to push back both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces and the al-Qaida offshoot group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Al-Jarba, head of the Syrian moderate opposition, told Kerry that the march by insurgents across the 'practically open' border between Syria and Iraq has created confusion across the region and that the war against terrorism must be stronger than ever.
Kerry said the moderate rebels will be crucial in the cross-border fight against ISIL Sunni extremists.
The top U.S. diplomat is in the Middle East to urge regional leaders to tackle the Islamist militant threat posed by conflicts in Syria and Iraq. The White House announced Thursday that it wants to send $500 million to train Syrian rebels fighting against ISIL.
Saudi Arabia has solidly backed the Syrian rebels fighting ISIL and Assad.
Kerry met Thursday in Paris with the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, in an effort to rally regional unity against ISIL.
The al-Qaida breakaway group is believed to receive much of its funding from sources in Sunni Gulf states that are opposed to the Shi'ite-led government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
U.S. officials say the Arab diplomats did not offer military support to Maliki's government, but Washington is hopeful the Arab states will use their influence with Iraq's Sunni militias to help counter ISIL.
The White House is sending 300 military advisers to help Baghdad stop the advance of ISIL. More of those troops arrived Thursday. The U.S. is also flying 30 to 35 daily surveillance flights over Iraq.
The militants' push toward Baghdad seems to have slowed in recent days. But concerns remain about ISIL setting up a brutal Islamist state in areas of Iraq and Syria that it controls.
Human Rights Watch says analysis of photographs and satellite imagery 'strongly indicates' that ISIL extremists conducted mass executions in Tikrit and Iraq, after seizing control of the city earlier this month. The human rights groups says ISIL fighters killed between 160 and 190 men in at least two locations between June 11 and 14.
Pressure on Maliki
In Iraq, pressure continued to mount on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
The country's top Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called on political blocs to agree on a new prime minister, president, and parliament speaker by Tuesday.
Iraq's recently elected parliament meets Tuesday to begin the process of forming what many hope will be a more inclusive government that does not marginalize Iraq's Sunni minority.
The prime minister has rejected forming an emergency government, saying that would go against the country's constitution and the results of the April 30 parliamentary election.
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