26 Jun 2014

Iraq PM rejects call for unity

7:10 am on 26 June 2014

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has rejected growing international calls for a unity government to fight off the threat from Sunni ISIS insurgents.

Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki

Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Photo: AFP

The United States and Britain have both called for him to invite more Kurds and Sunnis into his Shia-dominated government to help counter the threat from ISIS and other Sunni militants who have captured much of the north.

But in a defiant speech Mr al-Maliki has ignored the calls and refused to change his administration.

In his weekly televised address, Mr Maliki called on "all political forces to reconcile" in the face of a "fierce terrorist onslaught".

But he gave no promise of greater representation in government for the minority Sunni Arab community, whose anger at what they say are his sectarian and authoritarian policies has been exploited by ISIS militants, the BBC reports.

Mr Maliki said forming an emergency administration that included all religious and ethnic groups would go against the results of April's parliamentary elections, which were won by his State of Law alliance.

Sunni insurgents - led by ISIS - are continuting to advance towards Baghdad.

Fighting was reported to have continued on Wednesday, with an attack by rebels on the Balad airbase, about 80km north of the capital.

The crisis in Iraq was discussed by NATO leaders at a meeting in Brussels on Thursday.

They were joined by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who has just returned from a two-day visit to Baghdad and Irbil.

He announced he will be going to Saudi Arabia on Friday to hold further talks on the crisis.

Shiite men parade their weapons in the shrine city of Karbala on June 25 saying they will protect holy sites in the face of an attack by ISIS militants.

Shiite men in the shrine city of Karbala who say they will protect holy sites in the face of an attack by ISIS militants. Photo: AFP