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Obama, Maliki to Discuss al-Qaida Threat in Iraq

Vice President Joe Biden walks with Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki into the vice president's residence, the Naval Observatory, for a breakfast meeting, Oct. 30, 2013, in Washington.

Vice President Joe Biden walks with Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki into the vice president's residence, the Naval Observatory, for a breakfast meeting, Oct. 30, 2013, in Washington.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Barack Obama meet Friday at the White House. On the eve of the talks, the Iraqi leader said a resurgent al-Qaida endangers Iraq, the region and the world.

Prime Minister al-Maliki and others in the visiting Iraqi delegation have met with Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, other U.S. officials, and members of the U.S. Congress.

Speaking Thursday at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, al-Maliki said a resurgent al-Qaida, helped by political upheaval in places like Syria and Libya, poses a threat to Iraq and the region.

He acknowledged a deterioration in Iraq and said the world should be worried about, and do everything possible to prevent, the success of al-Qaida.

"We are warning, and we are fearing, and we are worrying [about] the potential success of the terrorist organizations in Syria. If God forbid they win, we and the whole world should do everything to prevent this, to prevent al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations to win in any country, not only in Syria and Iraq and Libya," said Maliki.

Al-Maliki and the White House voice similar positions on why violence has hit levels not seen since the worst period of Iraq's civil war between 2006 and 2008. Attacks have killed as many as 7,000 people this year.

He said al-Qaida is primarily responsible for attacks he said target both Sunni and Shiite, though he added some Iraqis are assisting terrorists coming from outside the country.

Press Secretary Jay Carney says the United States is "deeply concerned" about the violence.

"It is important to focus on where this violence is coming from. It is coming from al-Qaida and its affiliates. They are trying to provoke cycles of sectarian reprisals, but we are confident they will not succeed," said Carney.

President Obama faces pressure from Congress to withhold new military aid unless al-Maliki agrees to improve governance and address criticisms he has shut Sunnis out of influence in government.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker says the U.S. and Iraq need a "joint strategy" to confront the al-Qaida threat, and says existing agreements provide the basis for enhanced counter-terrorism and intelligence cooperation.

But he says Prime Minister al-Maliki also needs to look at his own policies.

"To be sure the prime minister understands that al-Qaida is gaining traction because of sectarian and ethnic tensions in Iraq that they can exploit and that many of these tensions emanate from the prime minister's own policies," said Crocker.

Asked on Thursday about criticisms of the way he has governed, Prime Minister al-Maliki insisted he has adhered to Iraq's constitution.

"The Constitution is ruling in Iraq, the Constitution gives prerogatives, and this is something I state clearly. Just let me know when I act in an unconstitutional way," said Maliki.

Former Ambassador Crocker says he hopes al-Maliki's visit leads to "more extensive, high-level engagement" with Iraq.

"We need the engagement of the Secretary of State, and the president himself, which we certainly had during my tenure, we need it again," he said.

Crocker serves on the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees U.S. government funded international broadcasting, including the Voice of America.

Briefing reporters ahead of Friday's White House talks, senior Obama administration officials said they continue to work with Congress on both an overall approach on Iraq, and the question of potential weapons sales.

The officials would not discuss specifics, but did not rule out enhanced intelligence cooperation to help Iraqi forces effectively fight al-Qaida networks coming from Syria.

Both Prime Minister al-Maliki and U.S. officials have stressed the importance of steps to create a second "awakening" among tribal leaders in Iraq to help confront al-Qaida.

Recent images from Iraq

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