Baghdad: US Secretary of State John Kerry warned Mideast nations today against taking new military action in Iraq that might heighten already-tense sectarian divisions, as reports surfaced that Syria launched airstrikes across the border and Iran has been flying surveillance drones over the neighboring country.
A senior Iraqi military official had confirmed that Syrian warplanes bombed militants` positions yesterday in and near the border crossing in the town of Qaim.
American officials said the strikes appeared to be the work of Syrian President Bashar Assad`s government. They said the target was the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a Sunni extremist group that seeks to carve out a purist Islamic enclave across both sides of the Syria-Iraq border.
"We`ve made it clear to everyone in the region that we don`t need anything to take place that might exacerbate that sectarian divisions that are already at a heightened level of tension," Kerry said, speaking at a meeting of diplomats from NATO nations.
"It`s already important that nothing take place that contributes to the extremism or could act as a flash point with respects to the sectarian divide," he added.
Kerry said Baghdad needs to take steps to ensure that Iraq`s military can defend the country without relying on outside forces. The US is sending 300 military advisers.
The US State Secretary said Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appears to be standing by his commitment to start building a new government that fully represents its Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish population. But he said that the US is watching closely to make sure any new political process does not repeat past mistakes of excluding Iraq`s minorities.
Iraq Prime Minister Al-Maliki today rejected calls for an interim "national salvation government" in his first public statement since President Barack Obama challenged him last week to create a more inclusive leadership or risk a sectarian civil war.
"The call to form a national salvation government represents a coup against the constitution and the political process," he said. He added that "the rebels are against the constitution, a thinly veiled reference to Sunni rivals posed a more serious danger to Iraq than the militants".