Obama pledges continued cooperation with Iraq on fighting militants

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WASHINGTON: U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday pledged continued “close” cooperation with Iraq on combating the Islamic State militant group as the Middle East country’s parliament okayed a new government.

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In a phone conversation with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Obama congratulated him on the approval of a new “broad-based” cabinet and stressed the need for the two countries to “continue working closely with the international community to build on recent actions to counter the threat” posed by the group, the White House said in a statement.

It said al-Abadi “expressed his commitment to work with all communities in Iraq as well as regional and international partners to strengthen Iraq’s capabilities to fight against this common enemy.”

“The president and the prime minister agreed on the importance of having the new government quickly take concrete steps to address the aspirations and legitimate grievances of the Iraqi people,” the White House said.

U.S. warplanes have bombed targets of the Islamic State in northern Iraq since Aug. 8, and Obama is scheduled to make a speech Wednesday to outline his plan on how to “degrade and ultimately defeat” the radical group.

The Obama administration has vowed to intensify its support for Baghdad once a new government is put in place.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry described the formation of a new and “inclusive” Iraqi government as “a major milestone” for the country. “The United States will stand shoulder to shoulder with the Iraqis as they implement their national plan to overcome the longstanding political and economic grievances that have for too long divided their country,” said Kerry in a speech delivered at the State Department.

The policies of Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister for the past eight years, were blamed for alienating the country’s Sunnis and Kurds and giving rise to the radical militants, who have seized vast swaths of territory in northern Iraq since June.

Kerry is leaving for the Middle East Tuesday to continue his efforts to build what he called “the broadest possible coalition of partners” to fight the Islamic State, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an al-Qaida splinter group also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

He cautioned, however, that the coordinated campaign against the group “will be built not just in a matter of days or weeks, but it will be built to endure for the months and perhaps even the years to come.” PNA

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