UK Politics

Hague holds talks with Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq

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Media captionWilliam Hague: "We want to see a government formed in which people all across the country feel they have a genuine stake"

William Hague has held talks with Kurdish leaders about international efforts to confront Islamist extremists threatening to overrun parts of Iraq.

The UK foreign secretary announced on Twitter he had arrived in Irbil to meet Kurdish regional government officials.

He discussed ways of curbing militants' access to finance and arms.

Mr Hague, who held talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki on Thursday, has warned that the country is facing an "existential threat".

The Iraqi authorities are desperately seeking to repel Sunni militants, led by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis), which have taken control of parts of the north and west of the country.

The government has bought second-hand jet fighters from Russia and Belarus to try to stem the insurgents' advances.

'Practical support'

The UK has ruled out any direct military help, focusing instead on providing diplomatic and humanitarian support as well as counter-terrorism co-operation.

Speaking at a press conference with Masoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan region, Mr Hague said the UK would press for action at the UN to stem the flow of arms from insurgents and stop their access to finance.

Image caption Mr Hague said it was not up to foreign countries to determine who lead Iraq

"I think it will be important in this new and deeply concerning situation to make sure that every loophole is being dealt with to make sure it is difficult for terrorist groups to use economic assets they have seized, to take advantage of the financial system," he said.

"I feel it will be necessary to have new and strong international agreement on how to tackle these things."

The BBC's Jim Muir in Irbil said Mr Hague was pressed over whether he backed calls from many Sunni and Kurdish leaders for Mr Maliki to stand down to aid a process of reconciliation.

He repeated his calls for Mr Maliki to form an "inclusive" government which could "command the support" of all Iraqis and to settle long-standing disputes with the Kurdish region over energy and resources.

"I found in Baghdad a strong consciousness of the need for a new and inclusive government that creates a stronger sense of partnership between Shias and Sunnis and Kurds," he said.

"It's not for us from any other country to say who should be the prime minister of Iraq.

"But of course we do want to see a government formed in which people all across the country feel they have a genuine stake and representation."

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