Biden urges Iraqis to pull together to fight insurgents

by Reuters
Tuesday, 17 June 2014 18:33 GMT

BRASILIA, June 17 (Reuters) - The United States will provide urgently needed assistance to Iraq's security forces, but Iraqis must pull together to fight the "vicious" insurgency that threatens to break up the country, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said on Tuesday.

"Urgent assistance is clearly required," said Biden during a visit to Brazil. "The bottom line here is that Iraqis have to pull together to defeat this enemy."

Biden said this would require setting aside sectarianism, building an inclusive security force and ensuring that all communities in Iraq have their voices heard.

The opportunity to do this exists now after the Iraqi Supreme Court certified the election results on Monday, he said in a statement to reporters after visiting Brazil's president.

Washington has made clear it wants Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to embrace Sunni politicians as a condition of U.S. support to fight a lightning advance by forces from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

ISIL fighters, who aim to build a caliphate based on mediaeval Sunni precepts across the Iraqi-Syrian frontier, launched their revolt last week by seizing the north's main city, Mosul, and have swept through the Tigris river valley north of Baghdad. They have boasted of massacring hundreds of troops captured in their advance.

Western countries, including the United States, have urged Maliki to reach out to Sunnis to rebuild national unity as the only way of preventing the disintegration of Iraq.

But the long-serving prime minister, who won an election two months ago, seems instead to be veering in the opposite direction - relying more heavily than ever on his own majority sect and vowing to purge opposition politicians and military officers he has labeled "traitors."

Biden said he has been involved in close consultations with a full-range of Iraqi leaders in the past week to reach "an inclusive political path forward even as we provide assistance to Iraq's security forces." (Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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