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Wednesday, 25 June 2014 | MYT 3:36 AM

Iraq needs Western support in government formation - U.N. official

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The top U.N. official in Baghdad has urged the West to encourage Iraq's political groups to form a new government in line with the constitutional and help them overcome sectarian tension.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told him he would meet a July 1 deadline to form a new inclusive government, but the blocs are divided over how to proceed after an election two months ago, faced with a war against Sunni militants.

At least a 1,000 people have been killed in fighting and other violence in Iraq in June alone as Sunni Islamists from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) sweep through the north, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

Nickolay Mladenov, head of the U.N. political mission in Iraq, said Western governments should push the parties to stick to the deadline for forming a government.

According to the constitution, parliament's first session should be held within 15 days of the ratification of the result by the federal court, which took place last week.

"A new parliament is supposed to meet so we need to encourage that everyone stays within that framework," Mladenov told Reuters on the sidelines of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg late on Monday.

Mladenov said the European Union should also take advantage of its experience in dealing with ethnic divisions and set up a long-term plan to help Iraq overcome sectarian strife.

The militants are exploiting deep resentment among Iraq's Sunni minority, which lost power when the 2003 U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein. Since the U.S. withdrawal in 2011, the Sunni population has become increasingly alienated from Maliki's Shi'ite-dominated government and his U.S.-trained military.

Mladenov reiterated his assessment that Baghdad was well protected from attack for now, but said the capital could come under threat if the conflict intensifies.

"What I would see as a game-changer is if the city is surrounded by ISIL from the south as well as the north. But at this point it is quite well protected," he said.

(Reporting by Justyna Pawlak)


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