|Kerry holds “good” meeting with Maliki||
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad on Monday to push him to make his government more inclusive.
Washington, which withdrew its troops from Iraq in 2011 after an occupation that followed the 2003 invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, has been struggling to help Iraq contain an insurgency led by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an al-Qaeda offshoot which seized northern towns this month.
U.S. President Barack Obama agreed last week to send up to 300 special forces troops as advisers, but has held off from providing air strikes and ruled out redeploying ground troops.
While Washington has been careful not to say publicly it wants Maliki to relinquish power, Iraqi officials say such a message has been delivered behind the scenes.
There was little small talk when Kerry met Maliki, the two men seated in chairs in a room with other officials. At one point Kerry looked at an Iraqi official and said, "How are you?"
The meeting lasted one hour and 40 minutes, after which Kerry was escorted to his car by Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. As Kerry got in, he said: "That was good."
Iraqis are due to form a new government after an election in April. Maliki's list won the most seats in parliament but would still require allies to win a majority.
According to Reuters, Kerry said Sunday that the United States would not choose who rules in Baghdad, but added that Washington had noted the dissatisfaction among Kurds, Sunnis and some Shias with Maliki's leadership. He emphasized that the United States wanted Iraqis to "find a leadership that was prepared to be inclusive and share power."
Recent meetings between Maliki and American officials have been described as tense. According to a Western diplomat briefed on the conversations by someone attending the meetings, U.S. diplomats have informed Maliki he should accept leaving if he cannot gather a majority in parliament for a third term. U.S. officials have contested that such a message was delivered.
A close ally of Maliki has described him as having grown bitter toward the Americans in recent days over their failure to provide strong military support.
Militants take control of Iraq-Jordan border crossing
Meanwhile, militant fighters took control of a border crossing between Iraq and Jordan late on Sunday after Iraq's army pulled out of the area following a clash with rebels, Iraqi and Jordanian intelligence sources said, according to media reports.
It was not immediately clear if the tribesmen's seizure of the Iraqi-Jordanian Turaibil crossing was part of the broader ISIL advance which has also helped the militant group secure supply lines.
Jordanian army sources said their troops had been on a state of alert along the 181 kilometer (112 mile) border with Iraq for several days, to ward off "any potential or perceived security threats."
ISIL is considered the most powerful force among armed groups who seized the Iraqi city of Fallujah, just west of Baghdad, and took parts of Ramadi, capital of the western Anbar province, at the start of the year.
69 prisoners killed in attack on convoy near Baghdad
In another development, sixty-nine detainees were killed in a militant attack on an Iraqi convoy transporting them in an area south of Baghdad on Monday, officials said.
One policeman and eight gunmen were also killed in clashes that erupted during the attack in the Hashimiyah area of Babil province, according to a police captain and a doctor. It was not immediately clear how the detainees died, AFP reported.
Officials have earlier said that 23 prisoners were killed in the attack.
It is the second instance of a large number of detainees being killed since the start of a militant offensive on June 9.
At least 44 prisoners were killed during a militant assault on a prison in the city of Baquba last week.
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