WHITE HOUSE — At the White House, President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki discussed Iraq's requests for new military and other assistance to help fight resurgent al-Qaida networks threatening Iraq's stability.
It was their first face-to-face meeting since December 2011, just days before the last U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq.
Iraq's military and police now face a deteriorating situation, with al-Qaida attacks and other violence claiming at least 6,000 lives this year. Mr. Maliki wants weapons, helicopters, and intelligence cooperation.
Obama said much of their talks focused on the al-Qaida threat.
"Unfortunately al-Qaida has still been active and has grown more active recently, so we had a lot of discussion about how we can work together to push back against that terrorist organization, that operates not only in Iraq but also poses a threat to the entire region and to the United States," said President Obama.
President Obama mentioned continuing counter-terrorism assistance, and said the strategic partnership remains strong, but did not mention any new agreement.
A joint statement says the Iraqis emphasized the need for additional equipment to fight al-Qaida networks.
Prime Minister Maliki spoke of a "common vision" in the fight against al-Qaida.
"We discussed the details of our cooperation, but the people who are in charge will discuss further details about this. What we want is for Iraq and the region to be able to work together and we are working in Iraq at the security level, intelligence level, social level, at all the levels we are mobilizing our people in order to fight al-Qaida because is a scourge for the Middle East," said Prime Minister Maliki.
Discussions also covered what the White House called political outreach to isolate and defeat al-Qaida and other extremist networks.
Obama praised Maliki's steps to make his government more inclusive and to work against sectarianism.
"We were encouraged by the work that Prime Minister Maliki has done in the past to ensure that all people inside of Iraq - Sunni, Shia, and Kurd - feel that they have a voice in their government, and one of the most important expressions of that will be elections next year," said Obama.
A group of U.S. senators accuse Maliki of pursuing a "sectarian and authoritarian agenda" that contributes to the rise in violence.
Senator John McCain spoke with al-Hurra television this past week.
"The violence and killing and chaos throughout the country is now at the level that it was at 2008. Prime Minister Maliki, who I have known for years, has not been inclusive. And before we give weapons to him we got to make sure those weapons are aligned with his priorities, which right now is a serious insurgency," said McCain.
Outside the White House, demonstrators accused the Iraqi government of responsibility in the killing of 52 residents of Camp Ashraf, a former base in Iraq for the Iranian dissident group Mujahadeen e Khalq.
Former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich addressed the crowd, and spoke with VOA.
"Maliki has to be held accountable for the violence that has been done in the country, and for the violence against the Iranians of Camp Ashraf," said Gingrich.
The Maliki government denies responsibility for the attack at the camp on September 1. U.S. officials say there is no evidence of Iraqi government involvement, but human rights activists disagree.