Iraqi PM warns against exploiting militant offensive

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Baghdad, June 25: Beleaguered Iraqi premier Nouri al-Maliki on Wednesday warned rivals against exploiting a Sunni militant onslaught for political gain and insisted that any new government must be based on an election he won.

[Read: Fewer Americans support US withdrawal from Iraq: Poll]

His remarks came as US military advisers began meeting with Iraqi commanders combating an offensive that has overrun swathes of five provinces, killed nearly 1,100 people, displaced hundreds of thousands and threatens to tear the country apart. And while security forces continued to repel assaults on critical towns and infrastructure, fighters from Al-Qaeda's Syrian franchise, Al-Nusra Front, made a local alliance with the jihadist group leading the charge in Iraq, bolstering its offensive.

In apparent response to calls from Sunni tribal leaders to form a government that ignores the result of an April 30 election, which they describe as a sham, Maliki said that would be a "coup against the constitution and the political process".

The incumbent premier, whose bloc won by far the most seats in April, said such a move was "an attempt by those who are against the constitution to eliminate the young democratic process and steal the votes of the voters." He warned against exploiting "what the country is facing... in order to achieve political gains."

The US has asked Iraq's fractious leaders to unite but to little effect

Though Washington has pressed for Iraq's fractious political leaders to unite in the face of the two-week campaign led by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadist group, they have shown little sign of coming together. US "support will be intense, sustained, and if Iraq's leaders take the necessary steps to bring the country together, it will be effective," Secretary of State John Kerry said during a visit to Iraq in which he met numerous politicians and urged them to work together.

However, US President Barack Obama has so far refrained from carrying out air strikes on the insurgents, as urged by Maliki. Washington has stopped short of calling for Maliki to go, but there is little doubt it feels he has squandered the opportunity to rebuild Iraq since American troops withdrew in 2011.

Kerry is to hold meetings with Middle East allies in Paris Thursday to brief them on his talks in Iraq. Maliki's security spokesman said first of up to 300 US military advisers had begun meeting with Iraqi commanders, adding: "We hope that there will be a true (US) intervention in order to offer real help for Iraq."

AFP

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