US President Barack Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi meet during the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations in New York, September 24, 2014
US President Barack Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi meet during the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations in New York, September 24, 2014 © Saul Loeb - AFP
US President Barack Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi meet during the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations in New York, September 24, 2014
AFP
Last updated: September 24, 2014

Obama hails "vision" of Iraqi PM at first meeting

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US President Barack Obama on Wednesday hailed the "political vision" and inclusive nature of new Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi as the two leaders met for the first time.

"I want to say directly to the prime minister that we fully support his political vision" and strategy of working with other countries in the Middle East, Obama said at the talks on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

Obama spent weeks calling on Iraq's jostling political factions to unite and form a government with the capacity to heal sectarian divides tearing the country apart.

He used his talks with Abadi to portray the new prime minister as exactly the right kind of leader for Iraq as it struggles to expel radicals from the Islamic State group from its territory with the help of US air strikes.

"One of the things I am very impressed with... is the fact Prime Minister Abadi understands that in order for Iraq to succeed it's not just a matter of a military campaign."

"Since he took over the prime ministership he has reached out systematically to all the peoples of Iraq," Obama said, praising Abadi for orchestrating political reforms.

"Although we cannot do this for you, we can be a strong partner," Obama said.

Abadi said that it was important for Iraq's partners to quickly equip and arm Iraq's forces, portions of which folded in the face of the Islamic State's advance across vast districts of the country.

He also said he was thankful that despite conducting military operations against IS in his country, US and allied forces had respected Iraq's territorial integrity.

A senior US official said that Abadi used the meeting to lay out in detail how he planned to "pull Iraq together."

Abadi went into his plans to build national guard forces to help local people in Iraq secure their territory against IS.

The prime minister made clear that he would not exploit the power vacuum opened up by the IS group to tip the balance of power against Sunni Muslims in favor of the majority Shiites, the US official said.

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