The governor of Mosul has told Sky News he would welcome US support in ousting Islamist militants from Iraq, but does not wants troops on the ground.
Speaking from Irbil in the Kurdish north, Atheel al Nujaifi said the insurgents’ attack on several Iraqi cities came as a complete surprise to Iraqi authorities.
He said Sunni Arabs fed up with the government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki had joined fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
With ISIS fighters thought to be fewer than 50 miles (80km) from the capital Baghdad, Mr Nujaifi conceded that Iraqi authorities need support.
“We need to have weapons. We need to have political support,” he told Sky News.
“(But) we don’t like the American army to come into Iraq and to occupy Iraq another time and turn back to the same problem that happened before.”
President Barack Obama has ruled out putting American troops on the ground in Iraq, but says the White House is considering all other options for support.
He said he would make a decision “in the days ahead” on the options, amid reports the Pentagon is drafting plans for possible air strikes against the Islamist rebels.
“The United States will do our part, but ultimately it’s up to the Iraqis as a sovereign nation to solve their problems,” Mr Obama said.
“We can’t do it for them,” he added.
Foreign Secretary William Hague has also ruled out sending UK troops, but said Britain may offer other support, such as counter-terrorism expertise.
“Work is under way on that now and we will continue to liaise closely with our United States allies in particular on that,” he said.
Mr Maliki claims that Iraqi forces have begun to clear cities of the “terrorists”, after he travelled to the embattled city of Samarra on Friday for a security meeting.
It comes as a representative of Iraq’s most senior Shi’ite cleric urged people to take up arms and defend the nation from militants.
Sheikh Abdulmehdi al Karbalai, a representative for Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, said: “People who are capable of carrying arms and fighting the terrorists in defence of their country … should volunteer to join the security forces to achieve this sacred goal.”
The ISIS militants took control of a huge swathe of predominantly Sunni Arab territory in northern and central Iraq after launching their offensive on Monday.
They have pressed as far south as the ethnically divided Diyala province.
Forces from the autonomous Kurdish region have also seized territory they have sought to rule for decades against the objections of successive governments in Baghdad.
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14 June 2014 | 4:39 am – Source: orange.co.uk