Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 27 May 2020

Pompeo: Iraq needs to make compromises to form government

US secretary of state said the country needs to end sectarian quota to rebuild relations between Washington and Baghdad

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo steps away from the podium following a news conference at the State Department, in Washington, US. Reuters
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo steps away from the podium following a news conference at the State Department, in Washington, US. Reuters

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has urged Iraqi leaders to put aside a sectarian quota system and make compromises to help the formation of a government as well as restore the relationship between Washington and Baghdad.

Earlier this month, Iraq's president named intelligence chief Mustafa Al Kadhimi as prime minister-designate, the third person picked to lead Iraq within 10 weeks as it struggles to replace a government that fell last year after months of deadly protests.

Mr Pompeo told reporters at the State Department on Wednesday that the US was watching closely as Mr Al Kadhimi entered the third week of his government formation efforts.

"The Iraqi government, too, must heed the call from many elements of Iraqi society to bring all armed groups under state control, and we welcome steps that have been taken in the past days in that direction," Mr Pompeo said.

Ties between Washington and Baghdad have been strained as the US said it was disappointed that Iraqi forces have failed to protect the US forces stationed in Iraq. They have come under several rocket attacks this year alone, for which the US blames Iran-backed militia.

In March, David Schenker, the State Department's top diplomat for the Middle East, said Washington was "enormously disappointed" with the performance of the Iraqi government in fulfilling its obligations to protect US-led coalition forces and that the issue remained a point of contention.

Mr Pompeo also said the US has caught no sight of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and is watching reports about his health amid speculation that he is either very sick or dead.

He said there was a real risk of famine in the country amid the coronavirus outbreak.

North Korean media has not reported on Mr Kim's whereabouts since he presided over a meeting on April 11, provoking speculation about his health and raising concerns about instability in the nuclear-armed country.

"We haven't seen him. We don't have any information to report today, we're watching it closely," Mr Pompeo told Fox News after being asked about conflicting reports about Mr Kim's health.

Some reports from Asian media outlets claimed Mr Kim had undergone a heart surgery that went wrong and is in a vegetative state, while others said he died at the weekend.

But South Korean officials have denied he is unwell and said some of the reports were untrue.

South Korean and US officials have said Mr Kim may be staying at North Korea's coastal resort of Wonsan to avoid exposure to the new coronavirus.

But Seoul and Washington say his health and location are closely guarded secrets and reliable information is difficult to obtain from North Korea.

Mr Pompeo said the US was also monitoring the situation more broadly in North Korea, which borders China, given the threat posed by the coronavirus.

Updated: April 30, 2020 01:09 PM

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