Wednesday 22 January 2020

Obama welcomes 'promising' step by Iraq with new prime minister

Iraq's current Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Reuters
Iraq's current Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Reuters

U.S. President Barack Obama said Iraq had made important strides toward rebuffing a militant group on with the designation of a new prime minister.

"Today Iraq took a promising step forward in this critical effort," Obama said in brief remarks.

Speaking to reporters from the Massachusetts island of Martha's Vineyard, where he is vacationing with his family, the president also said U.S. forces had successfully carried out airstrikes against Islamic State militants in northern Iraq and had stepped up military advice to Iraqis and Kurds.

Obama said he spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi to congratulate him and to urge him to quickly form a new cabinet that is broadly representative of Iraq's different ethnic and religious communities.

"This new Iraqi leadership has a difficult task," Obama said. "It has to regain the confidence of its citizens by governing inclusively and by taking steps to demonstrate its resolve."

Obama late last week authorized air strikes in Iraq to protect U.S. personnel in the Kurdish capital of Arbil from the Islamic State, a Sunni fundamentalist militant group that has swept through northern Iraq, and to ensure that members of the Yazidi sect were not subject to systematic violence at the hands of the militants.

The air strikes carried out so far are the first direct U.S. military action in Iraq since the Obama administration completed its withdrawal of U.S. troops at the end of 2011.

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