UN official tells Security Council: No immediate Baghdad threat

UNITED NATIONS Thu Jun 12, 2014 3:44pm EDT

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The top U.N. official in Iraq told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday there was no immediate danger of violence spreading to Baghdad, but that the northern offensive by Islamist rebels posed a great threat to the country's sovereignty, diplomats said.

Nickolay Mladenov, head of the U.N. political mission in Iraq, briefed the council via video link on this week's sudden northern advance by fighters of the al Qaeda offshoot Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Iraqi Kurds took advantage of the chaos on Thursday to swiftly seize control of the northern oil city of Kirkuk.

"He was quite assured in that Baghdad is well protected and the government is in control, so there is ... no immediate danger of the violence spreading to Baghdad," said Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin after Mladenov's closed-door briefing.

But Mladenov had noted that there were concerns about the violence spreading beyond the north, Churkin added.

"It's a disaster," French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud said after the meeting.

Churkin, president of the 15-member council for June, told reporters that the council expressed its unanimous support to the government and people of Iraq in their fight against terrorism.

"They strongly condemned all terrorist and extremist activities regardless of their motivation," he said. "They also stressed the importance of inclusive national dialogue."

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, who is currently visiting Jordan and Turkey, said in a statement that the violence by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant "is a clear security threat to Iraq and a growing threat to the region."

"The United States will continue working with the people of Iraq, regional partners, and international organizations to ensure that the resources and strategies needed to combat ISIL and other emerging terrorist groups are in place," she said.

Before briefing the Security Council, Mladenov met with Iraq's parliamentary speaker, Osama al-Nujaifi.

"He expressed his concern for the grave situation, saying that the ongoing violence in parts of Iraq is the most severe threat to its security in years," U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters in New York. "He reiterated the U.N.'s support for the Iraqi government in its efforts to fight against terrorism."

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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