Kerry makes unannounced Iraq visit

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IOL pic mar15 usa john kerry Associated Press American Secretary of State John Kerry

BAGHDAD - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made an unannounced visit to Iraq on Sunday and a senior U.S. official said he would urge Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to make sure Iranian flights over Iraq were not carrying arms to Syria.

Washington believes that such flights occur nearly every day but the Iraqi government has inspected only two since last July, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“He will be very direct with Prime Minister Maliki about the importance of stopping the Iranian overflights and the transits across the territory or, at a minimum, inspecting each of the flights,” said the official.

The official said Kerry would tell Maliki “it doesn't make any sense” for Iraq to participate in talks about Syria's future “so long as it is facilitating Iranian overflights ... of fighters and weapons that support (Syrian President) Assad”.

Kerry will also ask Maliki and the Iraqi cabinet to reconsider a decision to postpone local elections in two Sunni-majority provinces, Anbar and Nineveh, the official said.

Iraq remains riven by divisions among its Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish communities. The Iraqi cabinet last week postponed the elections, due on April 20, for up to six months because of because of threats to electoral workers and violence there - a step Washington believes will only increase tensions. - Reuters

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