US moves warship to region as it considers military options
THE US has ordered an aircraft carrier into the Persian Gulf and laid out specific ways for Iraq to show it is forging the national unity necessary to gain assistance in its fight against Islamic insurgents.
US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the USS George HW Bush from the northern Arabian Sea as US President Barack Obama considered possible military options for Iraq.
Mr Hagel's press secretary, Rear Adm John Kirby, said the move would give Mr Obama additional flexibility if military action were required to protect US citizens and interests in Iraq.
Accompanying the carrier will be the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun. The ships, which carry Tomahawk missiles that could reach Iraq, were expected to complete their move by the end of yesterday.
Islamic militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, have captured large swathes of territory north of Baghdad. Their advance on the capital was sending food prices dramatically higher and prompting tighter security in the city of seven million people.
In a call with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, US Secretary of State John Kerry said assistance "would only be successful if Iraqi leaders were willing to put aside differences and implement a co-ordinated and effective approach to forge the national unity necessary to move the country forward and confront the threat of ISIL".
Mr Kerry pointed to the importance of the Iraqi government ratifying election results without delay, adhering to its timeframe for forming a new government and respecting the rights of all citizens as it fights against terrorism, the State Department said.
Amid sectarian strife between Sunni and Shi'ite citizens, Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called for unity of all Iraqis.