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Al-Abadi to meet Obama on extremism

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Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi will visit the White House next month for meetings expected to focus on the effort to defeat the Islamic State group, the White House said Monday. Al-Abadi will meet with President Barack Obama on April 14, a White House statement said. It will be his first visit to Washington since he became prime minister in August.

“The president and prime minister will discuss a range of issues, including continued US support to Iraq to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL,” the statement said, using an alternative reference for Islamic State.

Al-Abadi’s visit “underscores the strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq and the strong US commitment to political and military cooperation … in the joint fight against ISIL.”

The United States withdrew from Iraq in 2011, but a few thousand troops have returned to help train Iraqi troops to take on the jihadist group.

Iraq earlier this month launched a major ground offensive to retake the city of Tikrit, 180 kilometres north of Baghdad. The offensive appears to have made little progress in recent days. Al-Abadi has said forces are moving slowly to minimize harm to civilians remaining inside the city.

Obama has expressed his support for al-Abadi, who replaced long-time leader Nuri al-Maliki after pressure from political forces and Iraq’s allies for a more conciliatory approach to the Sunni Arab minority.

The April 14 meeting is aimed at advancing the US-Iraqi partnership through expanded political, commercial and cultural relations under the Strategic Framework Agreement, the White House said.

The meeting will also discuss Iraq’s actions to address the needs of its people and to strengthen cooperation between all communities in Iraq. SAPA

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