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Iraq PM Rejects Calls For National Unity Government

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has been widely criticized for fueling sectarian tensions by failing to give an adequate stake of power to Iraq's Sunnis and Kurds.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has rejected calls for a national unity government to counter a mounting Sunni insurgency.

In a televised address on June 25, Maliki, a member of Iraq's Shi'ite majority, said that "the call to form a national salvation government constitutes a coup against the constitution and the political process."

He said that adding it was "an attempt to eliminate the young democratic process and steal the votes of the voters."

Maliki's electoral bloc won by far the most seats in the April 30 parliamentary elections -- 92 in the 328-seat chamber.

Maliki has been widely criticized for fueling sectarian tensions in Iraq by failing to give an adequate stake of power to Sunni and Kurdish representatives.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in Baghdad this week, held talks with Maliki and urged the speedy formation of a new, inclusive government.

Kerry also held talks with leaders of the northern Kurdish autonomous region, urging them to preserve the unity of the country.

Kerry will discuss the Iraq crisis with NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on June 25.

The Sunni militants, spearheaded by fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an Al-Qaeda splinter group, already control swaths of territory in northern and western Iraq.

Battle For Oil Refinery

Reports on June 25 said militants attacked one of Iraq's largest air bases as the first teams of U.S. military advisers arrived to help government forces.

Reports said the militants surrounded the air base -- known as Camp Anaconda under U.S. occupation -- and attacked it with mortars.

Meanwhile, it remains unclear who is in control of the Baiji oil refinery, Iraq's largest, where government troops have been battling militants for over a week.

U.S. President Barack Obama has offered up to 300 military advisers to assist Iraq but has held off granting a request for air strikes.

The Pentagon said on June 24 that 130 of the advisers have now been deployed. Another 50 are expected to arrive in the next few days.

The Pentagon said U.S. military personnel were also flying regular manned and unmanned reconnaissance flights -- about 30 to 35 per day -- to assess the situation on the ground.

The United Nations said more than 1,000 people, mainly civilians, had been killed in less than three weeks in June, calling the figure "very much a minimum."

The figure includes victims of alleged executions by ISIL fighters of civilians, soldiers, and police.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, dpa, and the BBC
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