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Iraqi PM Calls ISIL Declaration Threat To Entire Region

Iraqi security forces pull down a flag belonging to Sunni militant group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) during a patrol in the town of Dalli Abbas in Diyala Province on June 30.
Iraqi security forces pull down a flag belonging to Sunni militant group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) during a patrol in the town of Dalli Abbas in Diyala Province on June 30.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has called a Sunni extremist group's declaration of an Islamic state on territory it has seized in Iraq and Syria a threat to the entire region.

In his weekly address on July 2, Maliki said the announcement by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) that it had unilaterally established a caliphate "is a message to all the states in the region that you are inside the red circle now."

Maliki added that "no one in Iraq or any neighboring country will be safe from these plans."

In an audio recording posted online on July 1, ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi called on Muslims worldwide to travel to territories his group has seized and fight to build an Islamic state.

Maliki also said in his weekly address that he rejected an assertion by the country's autonomous Kurdish region that it will maintain control of disputed territory it has occupied amid the ISIL drive.

"No one has the right to exploit the events that took place to impose a fait accompli, as happened in some of the actions of the Kurdistan region," Maliki said.

Kurdish forces say they assumed control of the disputed territory in and around Kirkuk -- a major oil hub -- to prevent it from being taken over by the Sunni insurgents as Iraqi government troops retreated.

The leader of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, Masud Barzani, said on July 1 he planned to hold an independence referendum within months.

In an interview with the BBC, Barzani said the time was right for a vote as Iraq is already effectively partitioned.

He said he could not set a date yet, "but definitely it's a question of months."

Barzani also told Voice of America that the current situation in Iraq was "chaotic and scary."

In his speech, Maliki also offered an amnesty to some of those who have supported the militant offensive.

"I announce the provision of an amnesty for all tribes and all people who were involved in actions against the state," but who now "return to their senses," excluding those involved in killings, Maliki said.

Meanwhile, the first session of Iraq's new parliament on July 1 ended in disarray without settling on a new speaker.

Acting speaker Mahdi al-Hafidh told lawmakers that "this session is adjourned, and it will be held next week in the event of an agreement."

Lawmakers had taken a recess to discuss candidates for speaker, who has traditionally been Sunni Muslim, as well as two deputies who are Shi'ite and Kurdish.

Parliament convened with 255 deputies out of 328 but only 75 returned after the recess, resulting in the lack of a quorum.

Most of those who stayed away were Sunni and Shi'ite legislators.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on June 1 the meeting was "important" but urged Iraqi politicians to come to an agreement with "extreme urgency," warning that Iraq was facing an "existential threat."

With reporting by AFP, AP, Reuters, and BBC
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