UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the United Nations Security Council on Thursday called for the international community to help Iraq's government and people as the country struggles against a sweeping advance by Islamist militants.
The Security Council held an emergency meeting after Islamic State fighters surged toward the capital of the Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of Christians fleeing for their lives, in an offensive that prompted talk of Western military action.
Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said he would circulate a draft resolution to the 15-member council later on Thursday that seeks to address the threat of the Islamic State - formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Lyall Grant said the text, which he hoped could be negotiated in the coming days, outlines practical steps for "tackling the funding and recruitment for ISIL" and also proposes listing key Islamic State leaders under the Security Council's al Qaeda sanctions regime.
In a statement, Ban called "on the international community, especially those with the influence and resources to positively impact the situation, to support the Government and people of Iraq and to do all it can to help alleviate the suffering of the population affected by the current conflict in Iraq."
The Security Council echoed Ban's call and condemned "the systematic persecution of individuals from minority populations and those who refuse the extremist ideology of ISIL and associated armed groups."
"The members of the Security Council reiterate that widespread or systematic attacks directed against any civilian populations because of their ethnic background, political grounds, religion or belief may constitute a crime against humanity, for which those responsible must be held accountable," it said in a statement.
This was the third Security Council statement related to the Islamic State, which is considered more extreme than al Qaeda, in the past two weeks.
Ban said he was "deeply appalled" by reports of recent attacks by Islamic State militants in Kirkuk and Qaraqosh.
Sunni militants captured Qaraqosh, Iraq's biggest Christian town, prompting many residents to flee, while in Kirkuk two car bombs exploded and killed 11 people near a Shi'ite mosque holding displaced people, said security and medical sources.
The Isalmic State, which has declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria to rule over all Muslims, poses the biggest challenge to the stability of Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by James Dalgleish and Jonathan Oatis)