Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has called on local tribes in Anbar province to fight the Islamic militants who took control in the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi.
Mr. Maliki urged tribal leaders Wednesday to "come to their senses and take the right side" in the struggle for power in those areas, which are dominated by Sunni Muslims. While government forces are poised outside Fallujah, Mr. Maliki said his forces will not attack if local leaders battle the al Qaida-linked militants themselves.
The Iraqi Red Crescent Society says some 13,000 families have fled Fallujah. Mr. Maliki, a Shi'ite Muslim, says he has ordered security forces not to strike residential areas.
United Nations envoy to Iraq Nickolay Mladenov told reporters Wednesday that the humanitarian situation in Anbar province is growing worse and is likely to continue to do so if the fighting goes on. He said stocks of food, water and medicine are beginning to run out.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Mr. Maliki Wednesday, for the second time this week, about the power struggle in Anbar. The White House says Biden encouraged Mr. Maliki to continue to work with local, tribal and national leaders on resolving the situation and reiterated that the United States will support and assist Iraq in its fight against international terrorism.