WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Monday to express support for Iraq’s fight against al Qaeda-linked militants, a message Biden repeated in another call on Monday with Osama al-Nujaifi, speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, the White House said.
“The Vice President expressed concern for those Iraqis who are suffering at the hands of terrorists and praised the recent security cooperation between Iraqi Security Forces and local and tribal forces in Anbar province,” the White House said in a statement.
The White House said that the United States is accelerating its deliveries of military equipment to Iraq to help the country fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The affiliate of the international al Qaeda network has been tightening its grip on the country’s Anbar province, and last week captured positions in Ramadi and large parts of Falluja.
The White House said Biden, in his call with Nujaifi, praised the recent cooperation between Iraqi Security Forces and Sunni local, tribal, and national leaders in the fight against ISIL.
“The two discussed how best to sustain and deepen recent cooperation between Sunni communities and the Iraqi government,” the White House said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that the United States would step up its deliveries of missiles and surveillance drones to Iraq.
“We’re working closely with the Iraqis to develop a holistic strategy to isolate the al Qaeda-affiliated groups, and we have seen some early successes in Ramadi,” Carney said in a briefing.
“This situation remains fluid, and it’s too early to tell or make conclusions about it. But we’re accelerating our foreign military sales deliveries,” he said.
As part of that effort, the United States is looking to provide additional shipments of Hellfire missiles to Iraq as early as this spring, Carney said, as well 10 ScanEagle surveillance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in upcoming weeks and 48 Raven surveillance UAVs later this year to help Iraq track insurgent groups.
The United States also delivered three Bell IA-407 helicopters to Iraq in December, bringing total helicopter sales and deliveries to the country to 30, Carney said.
Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Steve Holland; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Eric Walsh