US ready to help new Iraq leader
US sent the military to Iraq to develop options for helping Iraqi civilians trapped on Mount Sinjar.
- US Secretary of State John Kerry
- Iraqi government
- United States Secretary of State John Kerry
- Iraqi Security Forces
- Shiiteled Iraqi government
- Iraqi military
- US air strike in Iraq
- Iraq accuses Islamic State of Yazidi atrocity US make new strikes
- Iraq parliament
- Shiite muslim
- Iraqi Kurdistan
- Shiite militia
- Iraqi Foreign Ministry
- Iraqs Shiite rulers defied Western calls
- Prime Minister Nuri alMalikis government
- Obama authorizes limited air strikes against militants in Iraq
- Nuri al Maliki
- Iraqi Parliament
- Tension between Sunni and Shiite muslims
BAGHDAD - Iraq's new prime minister-designate won swift endorsements from uneasy mutual allies the United States and Iran on Tuesday as he called on political leaders to end crippling feuds that have let jihadists seize a third of the country.
Haider al-Abadi still faces opposition closer to home, where his Shi'ite party colleague Nuri al-Maliki has refused to step aside after eight years as premier that have alienated Iraq's once dominant Sunni minority and irked Washington and Tehran.
However, Shi'ite militia and army commanders long loyal to Maliki signalled their backing for the change, as did many people on the streets of Baghdad, eager for an end to fears of a further descent into sectarian and ethnic bloodletting.
Sunni neighbours Turkey and Saudi Arabia also welcomed Abadi's appointment.
A statement from Maliki's office said he met senior security officials and army and police commanders to urge them "not to interfere in the political crisis".
A suicide bomber attacked a checkpoint near Abadi's Baghdad home on Tuesday, two police sources and local media said. There was no immediate word on casualties.
At least 17 people were killed in two car bombings earlier on Tuesday in Shi'ite areas of Baghdad.
As Western powers and international aid agencies considered further help for tens of thousands of people driven from their homes and under threat from the Sunni militants of the Islamic State near the Syrian border, Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States would consider requests for military and other assistance once Abadi forms a government to unite the country.
The United States sent about 130 additional military personnel to northern Iraq on Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said. The soldiers will develop options for helping Iraqi civilians trapped on Mount Sinjar by Islamic State fighters, the Pentagon said in a statement.
Since June the United States has sent about 700 military personnel to Iraq to protect US diplomats there and take stock of Iraq's military capacity.
The European Union gave the green light on Tuesday for its individual members to supply weapons to Kurdish forces in coordination with Baghdad. Diplomats said France, Italy and the Czech Republic were among the countries in favour of supplying arms. However, there was no immediate indication that they were about to do so.
"Iran supports the legal process that has taken its course with respect to choosing Iraq's new prime minister," the representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on the Supreme National Security Council was quoted as saying.
Abadi himself, long exiled in Britain, is seen as a far less polarising, sectarian figure than Maliki, who is also from the Shi'ite Islamic Dawa party. Abadi appears to have the blessing of Iraq's powerful Shi'ite clergy, a major force since US troops toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Iraqi state television said Abadi "called on all political powers who believe in the constitution and democracy to unite efforts and close ranks to respond to Iraq's great challenges".
One politician close to Abadi told Reuters that the prime minister-designate had begun contacting leaders of major groups to sound them out on forming a new cabinet. The president said on Monday he hoped he would succeed within the next month.
A statement from a major Shi'ite militia group, Asaib Ahl Haq, which has backed Maliki and reinforced the Iraqi army as it fell back from the north in June, called for an end to the legalistic arguments of the kind used by Maliki to justify his retaining power and urged "self-restraint by all sides".
It said leaders should "give priority to the public interest over the private" and respect clerical guidance - a clear reference to indications that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani favours the removal of Maliki to address the national crisis.
While US officials have been at pains not to appear to be imposing a new leadership on Iraq, three years after US troops left the country, President Barack Obama was quick to welcome the appointment. Wrangling over a new government since Iraqis elected the new parliament in April has been exploited by the Islamic State to seize much of the north and west.
Obama last week launched air strikes on the militants after they made dramatic gains against the Peshmerga forces of Iraq's autonomous ethnic Kurdish region, an ally of the Baghdad authorities.
Kurdish president Masoud Barzani told US Vice President Joe Biden that he would work with Abadi, the White House said.
US officials have said the Kurds are also receiving direct military aid, and US and British aircraft have dropped food and other supplies to terrified civilians, including from the Yazidi religious minority, who have taken refuge in remote mountains. The United Nations said on Tuesday that 20,000 to 30,000 Yazidis may still be sheltering on the arid Mount Sinjar.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the Yazidis' plight on the mountain as dire. "I urge the international community to do even more to provide the protection they need," he told reporters.
Kerry, who on Monday had warned Maliki not to resort to force to hold on to power, said on Tuesday that Abadi could win more US military and economic assistance.
"We are prepared to consider additional political, economic and security options as Iraq's government starts to build a new government," he told a news conference in Australia, where he also reaffirmed that Washington would not send combat troops.
FEARS OF STANDOFF EASE
It remains unclear how much support Maliki, who remains acting premier, has to obstruct the formation of a new administration. One senior government official told Reuters that his fears of a military standoff in the capital had eased as police and troops had reduced their presence on the streets.
In both Shi'ite and Sunni districts of the capital, many spoke of a sense of relief and cautious hope for change.
Saying two of her sons had died in violence in the past year - one while serving as a soldier in the north in May - she said: "Maliki knows only the language of war and never believes in peace, just like Saddam. Yesterday when I heard he was out I felt justice has been done by God, and my two beloved sons who were killed because of him will rest in peace."
But as Um Aqeel offered sweets to passers-by in the mainly Shi'ite area to share her satisfaction, one man, Murtadha al-Waeli, warned her angrily that she was wrong to celebrate.
In the mainly Sunni district of Adhamiya, where many people have long resented what they saw as Maliki's determination to keep Sunnis out of positions of influence, cafe owner Khalid Saad said he hoped Abadi would learn a lesson from the past by keeping his distance from Iran and leaving Sunnis in peace.