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Kerry in Iraq in unannounced stop on anti-ISIS tour

world Updated: Sep 10, 2014 14:03 IST

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Baghdad on Wednesday for talks with Iraq's new premier, in an unannounced stop on a regional tour aimed at building support for an anti-jihadist campaign.

Kerry was to meet Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, whose newly minted government is fighting to push back against militants led by the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group who overran large areas of the country.

He will "discuss how the United States can increase its support to Iraq's new government in our common effort to defeat (IS) and the threat that it poses to Iraq, the region, and the world," state department spokespesron Jen Psaki said in a statement.

A state department official travelling with Kerry told reporters that the top US diplomat would also meet with President Fuad Masum, parliament speaker Salim al-Juburi and foreign minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

Iraq "will have a critical role in this effort to have a global coalition to begin to degrade and ultimately defeat" IS, the official said.

Iraq has faced heavy pressure from the United States to form an inclusive government to bring its various religious and ethnic groups on board for the fight against IS, and on Monday MPs approved the nominations of 26 cabinet-level nominees, ushering in Abadi's government.

The official said that while major challenges remain, the approval of the new government -- which is still incomplete, with key security posts unfilled -- is an important step.

"Nobody says, oh great... the road ahead is going to be simple. It's going to be extremely, extremely difficult. But if you look at what happened (Monday), it's significant."

Iraqi security forces were swept aside by the initial IS-led onslaught, but Baghdad gained its first major offensive success of the conflict late last month, when troops, Shiite militiamen and Kurdish fighters broke an 11-week jihadist siege of the town of Amerli.

They have since pushed into surrounding areas, regaining further ground, but swathes of the country are still outside government control.