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France wants Iraq national unity government with or without Maliki

Iraqis in Basra volunteer to fight Isil
Iraqis in Basra volunteer to fight Isil Reuters/Essam Al-Sudani

France on Friday called for a unity government in Iraq, even if it means dumping current Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. A presidential statement earlier blamed the successful Islamist offensive on Syrian President bashar al-Assad.

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"There has to be a government of national unity," French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius told BFM-RMC broadcasters. "With or without Nuri al-Maliki."

“This is the first time that a terrorist group is threatening to take control of a state,” he said, as fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) advance on Baghdad, adding, "If you want to fight terrorist groups there has to be national unity."

France would be ready to intervene in Iraq but only of invited to do so by a “united Iraq” and with the blessing of the United Nations, he said.

A statement from President François Hollande on Thursday blamed the success of the Isil offensive on the conflict in Syria and called for more support to non-jihadi groups fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Issued following a special meeting of France’s defence council, with Hollande, Fabius and Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian present, the statement said the group’s advances are a “tragic consequence of the situation in Syria”.

Accusing Assad of using “terrorist groups” to fight the armed opposition, it called for all "friends of the Syrian people" to "reinforce and coordinate their support for the forces of opposition that are today fighting the jihadist groups", adding that France was "ready to contribute".

"A resolute response by the Iraqi authorities is urgent and necessary but only provides part of the solution,” the statement said. “It should be political in order to be sustainable and to receive the support of the United Nations Security Council."

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