Obama, al-Maliki vow to fight al-Qaeda

2013-11-02 09:20
Barack Obama,  Iraq PM Nouri al-Maliki. (AP)

Barack Obama, Iraq PM Nouri al-Maliki. (AP)

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Washington - US President Barack Obama and Iraqi leader Nuri al-Maliki on Friday discussed how to "push back" against al-Qaeda after the resurgent group whipped up the deadliest surge of violence in the country in five years.

Obama welcomed Maliki to the Oval Office nearly two years after the last soldier left Iraq, but as fears mount that al-Qaeda will send the country spiralling back into civil war.

"We had a lot of discussion about how we can work together to push back against that terrorist organisation that operates not only in Iraq, but also poses a threat to the entire region and to the United States," Obama said.

But he did not offer specifics of US aid.

Before the visit, US officials privately hinted that they were willing to offer increased intelligence help to Iraqi forces battling extremist fighters - many of whom have crossed into the country to flee violence that is rending neighbouring Syria.

Amid some criticism that the United States left Iraq to fend for itself after an eight year occupation, Obama said that he appreciated Maliki's work to honor the sacrifice of 4 500 US troops that were killed in the war by building a "prosperous, inclusive and democratic Iraq".

Some Maliki critics in Washington feel the prime minister has not done enough to include all of Iraq's minorities in the political system and has therefore fostered a well of sectarian resentment that has offered an opening for extremists.

After an hour and a half of talks, Obama also encouraged Maliki to pass an election law so national polls can take place on time early next year, and stressed the need for a peaceful solution to the Syria conflict and the nuclear showdown with Iran.

Maliki said he hoped that the United States would help rebuild Iraq and stressed his government's commitment to a strategic agreement governing their relations following the US withdrawal.

He admitted that democracy in Iraq is "fragile", but committed to hold elections on time next year.

October was Iraq's deadliest month since April 2008, with 964 killed and another 1 600 wounded, according to data from the Iraqi ministries of health, interior and defense.

The vast majority of those killed were civilians.

Read more on:    al-qaeda  |  barack obama  |  nuri al-maliki  |  us  |  iraq

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