U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Washington wants to evacuate tens of thousands of people on a northern Iraqi mountain caught in a dire humanitarian crisis.
Kerry said on August 13 from the Solomon Islands that U.S. officials are making a "rapid and critical assessment" on how to rescue the minority Yazidis and Christians who fled to Mount Sinjar after attacks by Islamic State (IS) militants on their towns and cities.
The United Nations warned the previous day that 20,000-30,000 people are still on the mountain and face "a mass atrocity and potential genocide within days or hours."
An Iraqi helicopter making aid airdrops on Sinjar crashed on August 12, killing the pilot and injuring an Iraqi parliament deputy and a "New York Times" reporter along with several displaced persons.
The United States also announced it will send about 130 more military advisers to northern Iraq to help local forces fight against Islamic militants.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on August 12 in California that the advisers will help assess the size of the humanitarian mission for the refugees from extremist Sunni militants and the needs of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces who are battling the IS fighters.
Hagel said the new group of U.S. advisers -- who will be based in the Kurdish capital, Irbil -- will not be involved in combat.
The United States already has some 90 military advisers in Baghdad and an estimated 160 more in two operations centers where they are working with Iraqi security forces.
In Brussels, the European Union failed to agree on a joint position to supply weapons to the Peshmerga forces, but said member states could send arms individually.
EU ambassadors said after an extraordinary meeting in Brussels that EU governments could send arms to the Kurdish Pershmerga forces "in close coordination with Iraqi authorities."
EU diplomats said some EU states opposed sending weapons to the Kurds, preventing an EU-wide agreement on such a policy from being adopted.
France, Italy, and the Czech Republic were among the countries who favored sending weapons to the Kurds.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Berlin should "go to the limits of what is politically and legally possible" in arming the Kurds.
But Germany has strict rules on sending weapons to conflict zones.
Britain said it had ageed to transport weapons from other countries to Kurdish forces, but had not yet decided to provide British weapons.
Iraqi Kurdish President Masud Barzani appealed to the international community on August 10 to provide the Kurds with weapons to help fight the IS militants.
Kurdish forces capitalized on U.S. air strikes against the Islamist forces on August 12 to recapture two towns near Irbil.
Meanwhile, Iranian and Saudi officials threw their support behind Iraqi Prime Minister-designate Haidar al-Abadi, increasing pressure on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to give up the post.
With reporting by AFP, AP, Reuters