Fri, Jun 27, 2014 - Page 1 News List

Iraqi PM pushes political solution to militant offensive

AFP, BAGHDAD

Iraqi Shiites who have volunteered to fight with Iraqi forces yesterday participate in training at a volunteers’ center in Karbalah.

Photo: EPA

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki yesterday said that political measures were needed alongside military action to repel a Sunni insurgent offensive that has overrun swathes of Iraq and threatens to tear it apart.

His remarks came during a meeting with visiting British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who reiterated Western calls for Iraqi leaders to unite in the face of a militant onslaught that has killed more than 1,000 people and displaced more than half a million.

Fighters continued to target key towns and infrastructure on the ground, but security forces appeared to be performing better than in the initial days of the advance, when they largely wilted.

Meanwhile, powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr vowed to “shake the ground” under the feet of the advancing Sunni militants, risking ratcheting up already high sectarian tensions.

We should proceed in two parallel tracks,” al-Maliki told Hague, according to a statement issued by his office. “The first one is work on the ground and military operations against terrorists and their gathering.”

“The second one is following up on the political process and holding a meeting of the parliament [on time] and electing a head of parliament and a president and forming the government,” he said.

Earlier in an interview with the BBC, al-Maliki said the Syrian air force had carried out air strikes against militants on the Syrian side of the Al-Qaim border crossing. He added that Iraq had purchased several older Sukhoi fighter jets from Belarus and Russia.

He said that while Baghdad did not request the Syrian strikes, he “welcomed” any such move against militants led by the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

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