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Kerry: New Iraqi Government Vital in Fighting IS Militants

  • Edward Yeranian

Iraq's new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi (L) and Iraqi President Fouad Massoum speak during the session to approve the new government in Baghdad, Sept. 8, 2014.

Iraq's new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi (L) and Iraqi President Fouad Massoum speak during the session to approve the new government in Baghdad, Sept. 8, 2014.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry calls the Iraqi parliament's approval of a new unity government a "major milestone" for Iraq and a cornerstone of U.S. efforts against the Islamic State extremist group.

Kerry said the government, which was approved Monday and will be led by new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, has the potential to bring together all of Iraq's diverse communities and build the future its people desire.

FILE - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry applauds new Iraqi government.

FILE - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry applauds new Iraqi government.

The United States has said a unity government that includes Shi'ites, moderate Sunnis and Kurds is essential for destroying Islamic State, the brutal Sunni militant group that has taken over much of northern Iraq and Syria and threatens Baghdad.

"The United States will stand shoulder to shoulder together with the Iraqis as they implement their national plan" to overcome longstanding political and economic grievances, Kerry said in a statement.

The White House said in a statement that President Barack Obama telephoned congratulations to Abadi. Both men agree on the importance of the new government taking steps to address the grievances of all Iraqis, the statement said.

Abadi replaces Nouri al-Maliki, whose apparent marginalization of Iraq's Sunni minority played a part in the rise of the militant group Islamic State, which has laid siege to swaths of Iraq and Syria. Maliki now becomes one of three vice presidents.

Obama plans to address the American people Wednesday on his strategy to deal with Islamic State. It is likely to include what Kerry calls a global coordinated coalition that could last for years.

Nearly every nation has a role in wiping out Islamic State, including taking up arms, sending humanitarian aid to Islamic State's victims, and working to cut off funds to the group, Kerry said.

Kurait, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Australia and Britain are among at least 40 countries that already have contributed to the effort in Iraq, "whether that's humanitarian assistance, whether that's arms to the Kurds," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said earlier in the day.

Kerry heads to Jordan and Saudi Arabia Tuesday for talks on confronting the threat posed by the militants.

Tensions delayed vote

The Iraqi parliament's approval of a new government came after months of arguing between lawmakers over which faction would head up which office, including the major posts of prime minister and parliamentary speaker.

Tensions still simmered on Monday. The vote on the new government came after a lengthy delay and amid angry shouting matches among different political blocs. A vote to approve individual ministers caused a further outcry, since Abadi has not yet filled key posts for defense and the interior.

After a number of Shi'ite deputies walked out of the session, the parliament's speaker, Selim al-Jabouri, paused briefly to question if the vote would go ahead. Then he indicated he would presume a quorum was present. Al Arabiya TV said a quorum of 289 lawmakers was finally reached.

A number of ministers in the new government were introduced, although several were absent from the ceremony. Kurdish lawmakers, who had remained outside the chamber, joined the body midway into the session.

Abadi presented a detailed government program for the next four years. He said he would work to guarantee wages to ordinary Iraqis, to put an end to terrorism and to defend human rights for all. He insisted no armed groups outside of government control would be tolerated, and he vowed to rebuild what was destroyed by years of conflict and violence.

A spokeswoman for Kurdish lawmakers told parliament that her bloc was giving the new government conditional support for the next three months. She said the government must resolve a dispute with the autonomous Kurdistan region over payment of employees within one week and determine its portion of oil revenues within three months.

A separate vote was held to approve each minister. Bitter differences over who should hold the two top Cabinet positions remained until the last minute.

Well-known political figures Hoshyar Zebari, Salah al Mutlaq, Iyad Allawi, Osama Nujeifi, Dr. Ibrahim Jaafari and Hussein Shahristani were sworn in to Cabinet posts by the head of Iraq's judiciary as the session came to a close.

Militants kill at least 17

Meanwhile, Islamic State militants attacked a riverside town north of Baghdad on Monday with gunboats and a car bomb, killing at least 17 people and wounding more than 50 others.

Authorities said the pre-dawn attack on Duluiyah, 80 kilometers from the Iraqi capital, started with a suicide bomber driving an explosives-laden Humvee into a gathering of a major Sunni tribe, the Jabour. After setting off the deadly blast, militants crossed a small river on the town's perimeter and violent clashes lasted two hours before the militants were pushed back.

Duluiyah had previously been overrun by the Sunni-dominated Islamic State insurgents, although the Jabour tribesman, aligned with Iraqi forces, had regained control and have fought renewed attempts by the militants to retake it.

The vehicle used in the attack was apparently taken from the Iraqi military, part of what the U.S. says has been a pattern during the Islamic State advance in the western and northern portions of Iraq.

The U.S. has for several weeks carried out airstrikes against the militants in support of Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

VOA's Pam Dockins contributed to this report.

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