The White House on Thursday voiced opposition to a call for a referendum on independence by the leader of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region.
"The fact is that we continue to believe that Iraq is stronger if it's united," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters at a daily news briefing, Xinhua reported.
"That's why the United States continues to support an Iraq that is democratic, pluralistic and unified," he said. "And we're going to continue to urge all parties in Iraq to continue working together toward that objective."
The call from Massud Barzani, president of the Kurdish region in northern Iraq, came as Sunni militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) are continuing their offensive after seizing a large part of Iraq's northern and western territories and declaring the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in areas under their control in both Iraq and Syria.
Barzani was reportedly telling the Kurdish regional parliament on Thursday to make preparations "to organize a referendum on the right of self-determination."
Washington, while stepping up military aid to the Iraqi government headed by Nouri al-Maliki, is pressing for an "inclusive" government in the country as part of efforts to combat ISIL's advances.
"The best way for Iraq to confront the threat that's posed by ISIL is to unify the country in the face of that existential threat," Earnest said. "And we think that's in the best interest of all the citizens of Iraq."
Another spokeswoman for U.S. State Department, Jen Psaki said Monday that the U.S. is not supportive of an independent Kurdistan in Iraq and called for all countries to support efforts for unity, according to Anadolu News Agency.
"At this challenging and grave security, we think it's even more important that all parties - the Shia, the Sunni and the Kurds - remain united against the threat they face," Psaki said on the possibility of an independent Kurdistan.
Psaki stated that the U.S. has been aware of the aspirations of Kurds for independence and said the threat that the region faces requires unity and this is the reason that the U.S. has been emphasizing it so strongly.
The U.S. had already opposed the establishment of an independent Kurdish state in the north of Iraq.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on Sunday, called for an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq, while Turkey’s Deputy PM Bulent Arinc said that Turkey would never support a disintegrated Iraq.
Saddam's home village recaptured
The Iraqi army drove insurgents out of late dictator Saddam Hussein's home village, state media and police said, part of a campaign to retake wide areas of northern and western Iraq overrun by the rebels.
Pursuing a counter-offensive, government forces along with Shia Muslim volunteers backed by helicopter gunships recaptured the village of Awja Thursday night, according to state media, police and local inhabitants.
They said that three insurgents were killed in an hour-long battle, and the main body of militant forces had fled south along the eastern bank of the Tigris River across from Awja.
State television quoted the prime minister's military spokesman, Qassim Atta, as saying that Awja had been "totally cleansed" and 30 militants had been killed. No casualty figures could be independently verified.
The army said that it now held the 50 km stretch of main highway running north from the city of Samarra - which is 100 km north of Baghdad - to Awja.
Lack of cabinet "regrettable failure": Sistani
Senior aide to Iraq's top Shia religious authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said that the inability of Iraq's parliament to agree on a new government in its first session was a "regrettable failure."
"Last Tuesday the first session of parliament convened. People were optimistic that this would be a good start for this council in its commitment to the constitutional and legal texts," Ahmed al-Safi, said in a Friday sermon in the city of Karbala.
"But what happened afterwards, in that the speaker and his deputies were not elected before the session finished, was a regrettable failure."
Sistani also reiterated his call that the new government should have "broad national acceptance."
Saudi Arabia deploys 30,000 troops to border
Meanwhile, in a precautionary move to protect itself from Islamist forces, Saudi Arabia deployed 30,000 soldiers to its border with Iraq after Iraqi soldiers withdrew from the area, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television said on Thursday.
Saudi Arabia shares an 800 kilometer (500 mile) border with Iraq, where Islamic State insurgents and other militant groups seized towns and cities in a lightning advance last month.
King Abdullah has ordered all necessary measures to protect the kingdom against potential "terrorist threats," state news agency SPA reported on Thursday.
The Dubai-based Al Arabiya said on its website that Saudi troops fanned into the border region after Iraqi government forces abandoned positions, leaving the Saudi and Syrian frontiers unprotected.
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