Kerry makes unannounced stop in Iraq

US Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Baghdad at the start of a Middle East tour to built anti-ISIS coalition. He is due to meet with new Iraqi prime minister Haidar al-Abadi whose government has been partially approved by the Iraqi parliament.

Mr Kerry’s tour is due to continue in Saudi Arabia and other regional capitals, where he is hoping to boost military, political and financial support for the fight against ISIS.

The trip marks the first high-level U.S. meeting with al-Abadi since he become prime minister.

His trip signaled to al-Abadi, that the U.S. was watching to make sure he gives Iraqi Sunnis more control over their local power structures and security forces, as promised, the Associated Press reported.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Kerry will “meet with Iraqi government officials to welcome them on the successful formation of a new government.” She said officials also will “discuss how the United States can increase its support to Iraq’s new government in our common effort to defeat ISIL and the threat that it poses to Iraq, the region, and the world.” ISIL is an alternative name for the militant group.

In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama has stepped up his bid to convince Americans he has a plan to defeat the IS, meeting top congressional leaders and scheduling a primetime speech for Wednesday.

Obama’s White House speech is considered his most significant effort to outline a strategy against a group whose savage methods have included the beheading of two American captives.

Obama met the bipartisan leadership of the U.S. House and Senate in the Oval Office to discuss the next phase of his campaign.

He met Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrats in the US Senate and House of Representatives, and Republican counterparts Mitch McConnell and John Boehner.

Sources: AFP, Associated Press, Reuters

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