SYDNEY The United States will consider additional military, economic and political assistance to Iraq once a new inclusive government is formed, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday.
He urged Iraq's new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to quickly form a new government, saying Iraqi leaders need to regain the confidence of its citizens by taking steps to demonstrate its resolve.
Kerry's comments in Sydney follow a statement from President Barack Obama that Iraq had taken "a promising step forward" in designating Abadi as its new prime minister.
"We are prepared to consider additional political, economic and security options as Iraq's government starts to build a new government," Kerry told a news conference together with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and their Australian counterparts.
Hagel said the United States was prepared to consider further military support in Iraq. Kerry ruled out U.S. combat troops on the ground.
"We would wait and see what future requests this new government will ask of us and we will consider it based on those requests," Hagel said.
The United States has supported the end of current Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's eight-year-rule, even as Maliki shows no sign of relinquishing power. It has blamed Maliki for failing to forge consensus and fuelling sectarian violence that is breaking Iraq apart.
In the first air strikes in Iraq since U.S. forces withdrew in 2011, U.S. warplanes have bombed Islamic State fighters in efforts to halt the advance of militants who have seized wide swathes of territory. The hardline fighters now appear set to try and take the Kurdish capital of Erbil.
"The best thing for stability in Iraq is for an inclusive government to bring the disaffected parties to the table and work with them in order to make sure there is the kind of sharing of power and decision-making that people feel confident the government represents all of their interests," Kerry added.
Kerry welcomed increased military assistance by the Iraqi government to Peshmerga fighters from the semi autonomous Kurdish region.
"It is quite unique," Kerry said of the cooperation between Kurdish and Iraqi forces.
"We think that is a signal for a growing potential for cooperation between Baghdad and Erbil."
(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Paul Tait and Robert Birsel)