PM-designate Abadi vows to unify Iraq against extremists

More than 25 Sunni tribes turn on Islamic State militants in Anbar province a day after the divisive former premier Nour Al Maliki agreed to step down.

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BAGHDAD // Iraqi leader-in-waiting Haidar Al Abadi on Friday vowed to fight graft and build an inclusive government to battle the Islamist insurgency, a day after Nouri Al Maliki agreed to step down.

The man who will become the next prime minister said his government would be based on “efficiency and integrity, to salvage the country from security, political and economic problems”.

Mr Al Abadi faces an immense challenge in trying to unite politicians as he cobbles together a cabinet in just over three weeks.

Iraq’s major factions deeply distrust each other.

Sunni politicians are pressing for greater political influence, saying their disenfranchisement under Mr Al Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government fuelled support among the Sunni minority for the insurgency, led by the extremist Islamic State group.

Iraq’s military fell apart as the militants advanced. The group has seized vast areas of territory in the north and west since June, sending hundreds of thousands of Shiites and ethnic minorities fleeing their homes.

The US last week launched aid operations and airstrikes as the militants threatened tens of thousands of civilians from religious minorities and advanced on the Kurdish region.

The US also began arming Kurdish forces, and the European Union on Friday agreed to follow, allowing members to deliver arms and military equipment to the Kurds provided it was done in concert with Iraq’s central government.

France has pledged to ship weapons to the Kurds, while Britain is delivering ammunition and military supplies obtained from eastern European nations and is considering sending more weaponry.

Germany, the Netherlands and others said they would also consider requests to arm the Kurds.

The president of the autonomous Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani, on Friday said he would support Mr Al Abadi’s call for a government that “involves all Iraqi factions”.

The country’s top Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani also gave his support to the new leader.

In more good news for Mr Al Abadi, more than 25 leading Sunni tribes said they had taken up arms against the Islamic State west of the Iraqi capital on Friday.

The uprising in Anbar province, where the Islamic State holds major areas, was initially fuelled by the former premier Mr Al Maliki’s perceived bias against Sunnis.

Anbar’s police chief, Maj Gen Ahmed Saddak, said security forces were backing the uprising, which began at 6am on Friday.

“The battles are continuing until this moment,” he said, putting the toll at 12 militants killed.

“We will not stop until the liberation of Anbar.”

The Islamic State has estranged Sunnis with its hardline interpretation of Islam, and harsh punishments imposed on those who do not conform to its strict rules or who belong to other faiths.

Yesterday, Islamic State fighters blew up a Shiite prayer hall in the town of Jalawla and publicly executed the muezzin, witnesses and a regional police chief said.

“Then they shot him dead in front of his mosque,” said the police chief for Diyala province, north-east of Baghdad.

The execution came four days after Islamic State militants wrested control of the town from Kurdish peshmerga forces after two days of fighting.

In Sayed Ahmad village, north of Jalawla, Islamic State fighters also executed six policemen, the sources said.

The Islamic State’s Sunni extremist fighters conquered large swaths of Iraq’s Sunni heartland in June.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council was set to adopt a resolution on Friday aimed at weakening Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria with measures to choke off funding and the flow of foreign fighters.

The British-drafted document would also place six Islamist leaders from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other nations on the Al Qaeda sanctions list, which provides for a travel ban and asset freezes.

The final text was agreed to by all 15 members of the council, including Russia, whose backing for Syrian president Bashar Al Assad partly stems from concerns that his downfall could lead to Islamists ruling Damascus.

* With reporting by Associated Press, Bloomerg News and Agence France-Presse