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.
The United States has reaffirmed its support for Iraq in its fight against the militants and said it will accelerate U.S. military sales and deliveries to the nation. But the White House says Iraq must take the lead and handle the conflict itself.