Iraq seeks more weapons from US amid rising violence
The(Hamburg, Germany) Deutsche Presse-Agentur
WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki discussed the need to fight a resurgent al-Qaeda threat amid rising violence in recent months, in a Washington meeting Friday.
"Unfortunately, al-Qaeda has still been active and has grown more active recently," Obama told reporters after the White House talks. "So we had a lot of discussion about how we can work together to push back against that terrorist organization, that operates not only in Iraq but also poses a threat to the entire region and to the United States."
The two countries issued a joint statement declaring Iraq's "urgent" need for more military equipment to target terrorists, but did not detail what hardware Washington might provide in the future. Al-Maliki had been expected to call for more US military assistance Iraq amid rising violence that left nearly 1,000 people dead last month.
The Iraqi leader said after the meeting only that he and Obama had "similar positions and similar ideas" about counterterrorism.
Al-Maliki previously said that he would seek more weapons from Washington, including helicopters and other military aircraft.
A total of 979 people were killed in October in Iraq, the same number of dead in attacks in September, UN estimates released Friday showed.
Obama and al-Maliki discussed the political transition in Iraq ahead of April elections, and the US president said he was encouraged by efforts to include Sunnis, Shias and Kurds in the government.
"Throughout this discussion, the main theme was that the United States wants to be a strong and effective partner with Iraq, and we are deeply invested in seeing an Iraq that is inclusive, that is democratic and that is prosperous," Obama said.
Al-Maliki described democracy in Iraq as "nascent and fragile" and needing support moving forward.
Some US lawmakers have expressed concern that al-Maliki has not done enough to advance democratic reforms, and a group of senators this week wrote to Obama charging that mismanagement by the Iraqi leader has contributed to the recent violence. However they also called on Obama to increase counterterrorism cooperation and said if al-Maliki can implement "a real governance strategy for Iraq, the United States is ready to provide the appropriate support to help that strategy succeed."
In a speech Thursday Al-Maliki denied that sectarian differences in Iraq were contributing to violence and said terrorism had to be addressed internationally.
Obama and al-Maliki discussed the conflict in neighbouring Syria, the Iranian nuclear programme and Iraqi oil production.
Al-Maliki last visited Washington two years ago as US troops were withdrawing from Iraq.
White House spokesman Jay Carney on Friday defended the decision to withdraw US troops and said there was no possibility of redeploying troops despite the increased violence in Iraq.