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Iraq foreign minister: Iraq faces ‘mortal threat’

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Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari arrives at an EU-Arab league Foreign Ministers summit in Athens, on Wednesday, June 11, 2014. In a stunning assault that exposed Iraq’s eroding central authority, al-Qaida-inspired militants overran much of Mosul on Tuesday, seizing government buildings, pushing out security forces and capturing military vehicles as thousands of residents fled the second-largest city. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari arrives at an EU-Arab league Foreign Ministers summit in Athens, on Wednesday, June 11, 2014. In a stunning assault that exposed Iraq’s eroding central authority, al-Qaida-inspired militants overran much of Mosul on Tuesday, seizing government buildings, pushing out security forces and capturing military vehicles as thousands of residents fled the second-largest city. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari arrives at an EU-Arab league Foreign Ministers summit in Athens, on Wednesday, June 11, 2014. In a stunning assault that exposed Iraq’s eroding central authority, al-Qaida-inspired militants overran much of Mosul on Tuesday, seizing government buildings, pushing out security forces and capturing military vehicles as thousands of residents fled the second-largest city. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The fall of the major northern Iraqi city of Mosul to insurgents must push the country’s leaders to work together and deal with the “mortal threat” facing Iraq, the country’s foreign minister said Wednesday.

Speaking in Athens on the sidelines of a meeting of European Union and Arab League foreign ministers, Hoshyar Zebari said he had assured his colleagues there would be “closer cooperation” between Baghdad and the Kurdistan regional government to push the insurgents out of Mosul.

Most of the city was seized Tuesday in a major assault by al-Qaida-inspired militants known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, who took control of government buildings and pushed out security forces as thousands of residents fled.

Zebari said it was “dramatic” for a large city like Mosul to fall and the security forces to be overrun, but added he was confident Iraqi security forces, along with the Kurdish peshmerga forces, would be able to push back the insurgents.

“There will be a closer cooperation between Baghdad and the Kurdistan regional government to work together and try to flush out these foreign fighters,” he told a small group of reporters.

Zebari, who is from Mosul himself, said there was no time to waste.

“You cannot leave these people to stay there, to entrench themselves for a long time. So there has to be really a quick response to what has happened,” he said.

The foreign minister said he hoped the incident would encourage Iraqi leaders to come together “to face this serious, mortal threat to the country.”

“It could be an inducement to all of them to think about the greater interest and to resolve the problems and to form a new government on the basis of a national unity government,” he said.

The EU-Arab League meeting was to issue a joint statement of condemnation of the events later in the day.

Associated Press

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