|Iraq appeals for US air strikes
Baghdad has called for US air strikes on militants who attacked Iraq's main oil refinery and seized more territory in the north, putting US President Barack Obama under pressure Thursday amid warnings the country could unravel.
The White House said Obama has not ruled out such strikes after a lightning eight-day offensive by Sunni fighters, led by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), that has seen them rapidly bear down on the capital.
While officials touted progress, militants seized three villages in northern Iraq and India said 40 of its nationals were kidnapped in Mosul, the city captured last week by insurgents at the onset of their offensive.
"Iraq has officially asked Washington to help... and to conduct air strikes against terrorist groups,'' Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told reporters in Saudi Arabia.
However, Zebari said "a military approach will not be enough. We acknowledge the need for drastic political solutions.''
The United States spent billions of dollars over several years training and arming Iraqi security forces after disbanding the Sunni-led army following the 2003 invasion that ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.
Washington has deployed an aircraft carrier to the Gulf and sent military personnel to bolster security at its Baghdad embassy, but Obama insists a return to combat in Iraq is not in the cards. --AFP