Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Talks aplenty as violence in Iraq continues -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

TANYA NOLAN: To Iraq now and a rare show of unity between Sunni and Shiite leaders as militants push closer to the capital Baghdad.

The factional heavyweights have appeared on national television calling on all citizens to put aside their differences in the face of the hardline Islamist threat.

Talks are also being held in Washington with president Barack Obama inviting the leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives to meet on Iraq.

But amid all the discussions, violence is continuing in several areas of the country, including the capital Baghdad, where a series of bombings has killed a dozen people and wounded at least 20 others.

Barney Porter with this report.

BARNEY PORTER: For some people, it was simply a re-run of previous failed efforts to bridge Iraq's sectarian and ethnic divisions.

Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish leaders first met behind closed doors then stood frostily before the cameras as a statement was read supporting Iraqi sovereignty, and denouncing "terrorist powers".

Qubad Talabani is a government minister and also the son of Iraq's president, Jalal Talabani.

QUBAD TALABANI: The situation is tense. It is potentially grave in many parts of the country. South of Kurdistan there is conflict; there is major tensions. We are watching very closely what's going on. We're very concerned about what we're seeing.

BARNEY PORTER: The meeting came hours after Shiite allies of prime minister Nouri al-Maliki had angrily vowed to boycott any cooperation with the nation's biggest Sunni party.

However, the prime minister's visibly uncomfortable televised appearance may also reflect US impatience with its Baghdad protégé.

President Barack Obama is still considering military options to push back the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) which overran the Sunni north of the country, as the Shiite-led army crumbled before it.

But in return, Washington wants Mr al-Maliki to do more to address the widespread sense of political exclusion among minority Sunnis which ISIS has exploited to win support among tribal leaders and former followers of ousted dictator, Saddam Hussein.

Sheikh Abdul Razak al-Shimari is a spokesman for the People's Movement in Iraq, a grouping of Sunni tribes.

ABDUL RAZAK AL-SHIMARI (translated): What is happening in Iraq now is a revolution. It's happening because of oppression, isolation and repression of the largest group of people in Iraq, the Sunnis, and under the leadership of different governments since 2005 until now.

BARNEY PORTER: In turn, Mr Maliki has raised the stakes, with his Shiite allies using unprecedented language to accuse the main Sunni power, Saudi Arabia, of fomenting "genocide" in Iraq by backing ISIS.

That claim, officially denied by the Saudis, was no doubt discussed at yet another meeting - this one in Jeddah between the Saudi Crown Prince and the minister of finance, and the US treasury secretary, Jacob Lew.

JACOB LEW: The United States and Saudi Arabia have worked very closely on terrorist financing threats and I think the kind of work we are doing is really at the highest level that it has ever been.

BARNEY PORTER: But as the west ramps up the behind-the-scenes diplomacy, the fighting is continuing.

VOX POP (translated): The shelling in Tel Afar hit on both sides - from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria there were mortar shells and from the Shiites there were mortar shells. We were stuck in the middle.

VOX POP 2 (translated): We left because of the fighting. I don't want to stay in Erbil. I'm trying to reach my daughter in Kirkuk. Until now they're not allowing us to get through this checkpoint. They tell us to go through another way, but where?

VOX POP 3 (translated): We don't know what will happen. We are living the moment not knowing what tomorrow will bring. People want to live.

BARNEY PORTER: And more world leaders are speaking out about the potential for the violence to spill across more borders.

The British prime minister, David Cameron, has said ISIS poses the most serious threat to Britain today.

DAVID CAMERON: The number of foreign fighters in that area, the number of foreign fighters including those from the UK who could try to return to the UK. This is a real threat to our country and we will do absolutely everything that we can to keep our people safe.

That means stopping people from going, it means arresting people who are involved in plots, it means focussing our security, our policing, our intelligence effort onto that area of the world, onto those people.

TANYA NOLAN: That's the British prime minister David Cameron, ending that report by Barney Porter.