Kerry to visit Saudi Arabia for Iraq talks

Iraq's Maliki rules out forming a national emergency government to resolve the Sunni militant offensive

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday he would travel to Saudi Arabia this Friday for talks with King Abdullah about the crisis in Iraq where an ongoing standoff between the Shiite-dominated government and Sunni militants threatens to tear the Arab country apart.

Speaking on the sidelines of talks at NATO, Kerry announced the extra stop on his current whirlwind tour saying he would stress "the great urgency" of the conflict in Iraq and brief Saudi leaders on his visits to Baghdad and Erbil this week.

"President Obama has also asked me travel to Saudi Arabia on Friday in order to meet with his majesty King Abdullah to discuss regional issues, including clearly the situation in Iraq," Kerry told a news conference Wednesday.

The two men would also talk about "how we can counter the sheer threat that is posed by ISIL as well as to discuss our support for the moderate opposition in Syria."

"None of us need to be reminded that a far away threat can have tragic consequences at home in the most unexpected way, the most unexpected moment," Kerry added.

Sunni militants, spearheaded by the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and joined by supporters of executed dictator Saddam Hussein, have overrun a large chunk of northern and north-central Iraq in the past week, although their advance has since been slowed.

Saudi officials have said the "sectarian" policies of Baghdad's Shiite-led government are to blame for the takeover by Sunni insurgents of key cities and large swathes of the country.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Wednesday, who has come under increasing pressure over the insurgency, ruled out forming a national emergency government to confront the Sunni militant offensive.

“The call to form a national emergency government is a coup against the constitution and the political process,” Maliki said in a televised address.

“The dangerous goals of forming a national emergency government are not hidden.

“It is an attempt by those who are against the constitution to eliminate the young democratic process and steal the votes of the voters,” said the Iraqi leader.

Maliki’s electoral bloc won by far the most seats in April 30 parliamentary elections with 92, nearly three times as many as the next biggest party, and the incumbent himself tallied 720,000 personal votes, also far and away the most.

But he fell short of a majority in Iraq’s Council of Representatives, and has had to court the support of rivals in order to form a government.

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