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Kerry to hold Saudi talks on Islamic State

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US President Barack Obama is sending his secretary of state to Saudi Arabia to meet Arab foreign ministers as he prepares to deliver a speech outlining his strategy against the Islamic State group.

John Kerry’s meeting seeks to broaden a coalition across the Arab world against the armed Sunni group, AFP news agency reported on Tuesday.

The news comes as Kerry pledged to continue the US fight against the Islamic State, and expressed support for the newly formed Iraqi government under Haider al-Abbadi.

“The United States is prepared to further enhance our support for Iraq’s fight against [Islamic State group] and continue to engage the international community to do the same,” he said in a statement.

Kerry’s meeting in the Saudi port city of Jeddah, which will be held on Wednesday and Thursday, will be attended by ministers from Egypt, Jordan and the six Gulf Arab states as well as Iraq, an Egyptian Foreign Ministry official told AFP.

The ministers “are going to meet Kerry on Wednesday and Thursday in Jeddah as part of efforts to tackle terrorism”, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Gebran Bassil, Lebanese foreign minister, will also take part in the talks, a government official in Beirut told AFP.

The Egyptian official said Cairo supports “all international efforts to fight terrorism” and would “support US efforts politically”.

“But as for any possible Egyptian participation in concrete security measures, this must be done under a UN mandate and in the framework of a Security Council resolution.”

On Wednesday, Obama is set to deliver a speech pressing for more military action against the Islamic State in Iraq and in Syria.

In the Iraqi capital Baghdad, legislators are urging Prime Minister Abaddi to quickly assign the critical posts of defence and interior minister, which will spearhead domestic efforts to combat the advance of the Islamic State.

Like many positions in the Iraqi government, the job of defence minister has, in recent years, traditionally been assigned to a Sunni, while the interior minister has been a Shia.

Legislators said the country is at too critical a juncture to focus on such practices.

“I have fears that the vacant posts, mainly the defence and interior, will run without ministers or they will be given to persons affiliated to political parties instead of to people who are independent and professional,” Hamid al-Mutlaq, Sunni legislator, told the Associated Press by phone.

The Anbar province politician called on al-Abbadi’s government to “prove its credibility and good intensions”.

Salim al-Muslimawi, a Shia legisator from Babil province, said any further delay in naming the defence and interior ministers risks making the government appear weak and divided.

He called the generally rapid selection of other cabinet posts “a positive step in tackling the many problems facing the country.”

Meanwhile Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton, reporting from Erbil on Tuesday, said the Kurdish bloc in the Iraqi parliament was under intense pressure to join Abbadi’s government.

She said the Kurdish bloc decided to join at the last minute after reaching “behind-the-scene” compromise with the Shia-led government.

“The Kurds want an agreement on decentralisation, they want more power, and they want Baghdad to pay the budget that had been promised,” she said. Al Jazeera

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