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Kerry issues Iraq warning

BAGHDAD -- Warning of the "existential threat" posed by Sunni militants, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday the U.S. is prepared to take military action even if Baghdad delays political reforms, noting the risks of letting the insurgency run rampant threaten dangers beyond Iraq's borders.

He stressed military action would not be in support of the present Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Kerry, on a few hours' visit to Baghdad, urged Iraq's leaders to quickly set aside divisions as the only means of stopping the vicious Sunni insurgency and said Iraq's future depended on choices Iraq's leaders make in the next days and weeks.

"The future of Iraq depends primarily on the ability of Iraq's leaders to come together and take a stand united against ISIL," Kerry told a news conference, using the acronym for the al-Qaida-breakaway group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, that has captured huge swathes of Iraqi territory in the north and west.

It was a dire warning to leaders of Iraq's bitterly divided Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities that came at a time when the Middle Eastern nation was facing its worst crisis since the withdrawal of U.S. forces in late 2011 after eight years in Iraq. The Sunni fighters have virtually erased Iraq's western border with Syria and also taken territory on the frontier with Jordan.

 

Ceasefire accepted

KYIV, Ukraine -- Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine agreed Monday to a four-day ceasefire and to further negotiations with the government, a move that could help quell a conflict that has paralyzed the nation and defer further EU and U.S. sanctions against Russia.

After the first official meeting between delegates from both sides, Alexander Borodai, the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, said separatist fighters would honour the truce declared last week by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and suspend hostilities until Friday. He also pledged to continue the talks.

Meanwhile, EU foreign ministers met in Luxembourg to discuss imposing further sanctions on Russia as early as Friday if the Ukraine situation does not de-escalate and as a similar U.S. sanctions deadline of early July approaches. U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke Monday about the conflict, the White House said.

 

-- from the news services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 24, 2014 A12

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