|UN chief welcomes Ayatollah Sistani's call for unity||
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed senior Iraqi cleric Ayatollah Sistani’s call for unity in Iraq as the country is battling a new surge of terrorism headed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“In this regard, he (The Secretary General) welcomes the important clarification statement on the need for Iraqi unity of (Ayatollah) Sayed Ali Al Sistani, who represents a deeply influential voice of wisdom and reason,” Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement released on Monday.
Reiterating his condemnation of what he called an upsurge of violence in Iraq at the hands of terrorist groups, Ban called on all Iraqi leaders to work to curb the spread of sectarian retribution.
“The Secretary General warns against sectarian rhetoric that could further exacerbate the conflict and carry grave implications for the entire region,” the statement said.
“The Secretary General calls on all Iraqi leaders – political, military, religious and community – to ensure that their followers avoid acts of reprisal,” he said.
Militants attack Baqouba
Meanwhile, terrorists attacked and took control of parts of the central Iraq city of Baqouba but security forces eventually repelled the assault Tuesday, army and police officers said.
The overnight attack took place in the center of Baqouba, capital of Diyala province, and according to the officers, saw militants temporarily occupying several neighborhoods.
The city, located just 60 kilometers north of Baghdad, is the closest the fighting has come to the capital since a major militant offensive swept down from the north last week.
Security forces performed poorly during the initial assault, in some cases abandoning uniforms and vehicles to flee, but seem to be recovering somewhat from the shock of the onslaught, and have begun to push back.
At least 44 prisoners were killed in the overnight militant assault on a police station in Baqouba, security and medical officials said Tuesday.
Accounts differed as to who was responsible for the killings, with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's security spokesman saying the prisoners were killed by insurgents carrying out the attack, and other officials saying they were killed by security forces as they tried to escape.
Obama announces 275 troops for embassy security
In another development, U.S. President Barack Obama announced 275 US troops will be deployed to Iraq to provide security for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
“This force is deploying for the purpose of protecting U.S. citizens and property, if necessary, and is equipped for combat,” Obama said in a letter sent to House and Senate leaders.
“This force will remain in Iraq until the security situation becomes such that it is no longer needed.”
The White House press secretary said the deployment of the U.S. Armed Forces personnel is “consistent with the War Powers Resolution.”
“The personnel will provide assistance to the Department of State in connection with the temporary relocation of some staff from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to the U.S. Consulates General in Basra and Erbil and to the Iraq Support Unit in Amman," the press secretary said in a statement.
"These U.S. military personnel are entering Iraq with the consent of the Government of Iraq. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad remains open, and a substantial majority of the U.S. Embassy presence in Iraq will remain in place and the embassy will be fully equipped to carry out its national security mission."
The White House had reportedly dropped any idea of sending U.S. combat troops to Iraq.
"The president was very clear that we will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq," White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement. "That remains the case and he has asked his national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraqi security forces."
The White House did not comment on whether the announcement of embassy security represents a possible break from the Obama administration’s policy against future combat troops in Iraq.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is said to be considering offering a small contingent of American special forces soldiers to Iraq, U.S. officials said Monday.
The plan would incorporate as many as 100 soldiers in a non-combat, training role to assist Iraqi forces against ISIL militants, three US officials told AP on the condition of anonymity.
The special forces plan is reportedly high on the list of options the U.S. is considering in offering the government in Iraq help against the terrorists as ISIS pushes toward the nation’s capital.
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|Last Updated on 17 June 2014 17:09|