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June 23, 2014

Kerry to Iraq leaders: sharing power is critical

BAGHDAD — America's top diplomat said Monday that leaders of Iraq's factions must keep their commitments to seat a new parliament next week, before a Sunni insurgency sweeps away hopes for a lasting peace.

Meeting with all factions, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had a dire message to leaders of Iraq's bitterly divided Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish political coalitions who have lived through more than three decades of dictatorship, sanctions and wars.

"This is a critical moment for Iraq's future," Kerry said at a press conference in Baghdad. "It is a moment of decision for Iraq's leaders and it's a moment of great urgency."

Sunnis frustrated with being cut out of power are increasingly joining the ISIL, a bloody insurgency that has been emboldened by battlefield successes in neighboring Syria's civil war and has made rapid and record gains in Iraq over the past two weeks.

Kerry is seeking to hold the officials to a government transition that the U.S. believes will stave off the threat of a new civil war by giving more power to Iraq's minorities.

Kerry offered few details of his closed-door meetings in Baghdad. But he said each of the officials he met with — including Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — committed to seat a new parliament by July 1 as the constitution requires.

"The very future of Iraq depends on choices that will be made in the next days and weeks, and the future of Iraq depends primarily on the ability of Iraq's leaders to come together and take a stand united against ISIL," Kerry said, referring to the insurgency known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. "Not next week, not next month, but now."

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