PARIS French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Friday that Iraq needed a government of national unity, with or without Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, to counter a Sunni rebel insurgency.
Faulting Maliki for failing to ensure a more inclusive form of government, Fabius said it was critical now to better involve Sunni moderates to avoid them siding with what he described as the "terrorist group" ISIL, an al Qaeda splinter organization.
Pressed in a media interview to say whether Maliki should form the broader-ranging government which U.N. Security Council veto-holder France advocated, Fabius replied: "With or without Maliki, but what Iraq needs is a government of national unity."
Without such a change, Iraq risked being taken over by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an al Qaeda splinter group that has already overrun the country's north of the country, Fabius told BFM TV in an interview.
"It's the first time a terrorist group is threatening to take control of an entire state," he said.
"I don't want to sensationalize but you've perhaps seen the videos where ISIL people play football with the heads of people they have just assassinated. If these people take control of Iraq you can imagine what that means."
U.S. President Barack Obama announced on Thursday that he was sending up to 300 U.S. military advisers to Iraq but he too urged Maliki to do more to heal the country's sectarian rift.
"We do not have the ability to simply solve this problem by sending in tens of thousands of troops and committing the kinds of blood and treasure that has already been expended in Iraq," Obama told reporters. "Ultimately, this is something that is going to have to be solved by the Iraqis."
(Reporting By Brian Love; editing by Mark John)