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Kerry: US will support Iraq, but without troops

JERUSALEM (AP) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that America would support Iraq in its fight against al-Qaida-linked militants who have overrun two cities in the country's west, but said the U.S. wouldn't send troops, calling the battle "their fight."

Kerry made the comments as he left Jerusalem for Jordan and Saudi Arabia to discuss his effort to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He's had three days of lengthy meetings with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Kerry said some progress was made in what he described as " very serious, very intensive conversations," but key hurdles are yet to be overcome.

On Iraq, Kerry told reporters the U.S. was very concerned by the al-Qaida linked gunmen who have largely taken over Fallujah and Ramadi in an uprising that has been a blow to the Shiite-led government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The two cities are in Anbar province, a vast desert area on the borders with Syria and Jordan that was the heartland of the Sunni insurgency that rose up against American troops and the Iraqi government after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Fallujah became notorious among Americans when insurgents in 2004 killed four American security contractors and hung their burned bodies from a bridge. Ramadi and other cities have remained battlegrounds as sectarian bloodshed has mounted, with Shiite militias killing Sunnis.

"We are very, very concerned about the efforts of al-Qaida and the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant, which is affiliated with al-Qaida, who are trying to assert their authority not just in Iraq, but in Syria," Kerry said before leaving to visit Jordan's King Abdullah II and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah . "These are the most dangerous players in that region. Their barbarism against the civilians in Ramadi and Fallujah and against Iraqi security forces is on display for everyone in the world to see."

He said the U.S. stands with the Iraqi government and others seeking to push back militants who are trying to destabilize the region and undermine a democratic process in Iraq. He said the U.S. was in contact with tribal leaders in Anbar who are standing up to the terrorists.

But he added: "This is a fight that belongs to the Iraqis. That is exactly what the president and the world decided some time ago when we left Iraq, so we are not obviously contemplating returning. We are not contemplating putting boots on the ground. This is their fight. ... We will help them in their fight, but this fight, in the end, they will have to win and I am confident they can."

On another issue roiling the Middle East, Kerry did not dismiss the idea that Iran could play a constructive role in finding a resolution to the civil war in Syria, even if Tehran is not a full participant in a conference on Syria later this month in Switzerland. The U.S. has objected to Iran's participation because it hasn't publicly endorsed the principles from the first Geneva peace conference on Syria in June 2012, calling for a transitional government in Syria, and is backing militias, including the Iranian-allied Lebanese Hezbollah group that has backed the troops of President Bashar Assad.

"If Iran doesn't support that, it's difficult to see how they are going to be a ministerial partner in the process," Kerry said.

"Now could they contribute from the sidelines? Are there ways for them, conceivably, to weigh in? ... It may be that there are ways that that could happen," Kerry said.

America's top diplomat arrived in the region on Thursday to try to keep Mideast peace talks on track amid sniping between Israel and the Palestinians.

"Now is not the time to get trapped in the sort of up and down of the day-to-day challenges," Kerry said before leaving for Jordan. "We don't have the luxury of dwelling on the obstacles that we all know could distract us from the goal. ... What we need to do is lift our sights and look ahead and keep in mind the vision of what can come if we can move forward."

Kerry is trying to nudge Abbas and Netanyahu closer to a peace pact that would establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

The talks have entered an intense phase aimed at getting the two sides to agree on a framework and provide guidance toward a final settlement. Reaching a deal on that framework is not expected on this trip, Kerry's 10th to the region for peace talks.

"This is deeply steeped in history and each side has a narrative about their rights and their journey and the conflict itself," Kerry said. "In the end, all of these core issues fit together like a mosaic. It's a puzzle. ... I cannot tell you when the last pieces may decide to fall into place or may fall on the floor and leave the puzzle unfinished."

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

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Ol Bob January 05 2014 at 12:50 PM

Give 'em moral support, but lay off the taxpayers. We're broke.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
Dennis Savela January 05 2014 at 2:58 PM

Yea no troops but a whole lotta cash!

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Richard January 05 2014 at 11:18 AM

this guy john Kerry is nothing but a fake he is trying to get political points this way he lost his bid for pres. once [thank GOD] so he's trying to blind side all of us now I have no respect for him or his partner in the white house

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2 replies
Buk Richard January 05 2014 at 11:43 AM

Feel free to run for office then. Thank God? For what Bush winning and getting over 4k killed in 2 wars with no idea how to win or withdraw? How about him Ignoring warnings about an immanent attack on us that brought 4k more dead on 9/11. I could only wish that one of your loved ones died due to his incompetence as Commander in Chief. Wonder what your tune would be then.

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2 replies
filmwinder Buk January 05 2014 at 11:48 AM

love your compassion for a fellow human being. if they dont agree, wish death to the family. priceless.

Flag +2 rate up
Paul Castle Buk January 05 2014 at 12:48 PM

YOUR WISHING THAT SOMEONES LOVE ONE DYING SAYS MORE ABOUT YOU THAN CAN E WRITTEN IN A HUNDRED BOOKS. Just suppose someone had said that to you and about your family. Shame on you and your radical feelings. That comment has no place on this blog.

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dunedinmatt Richard January 05 2014 at 11:53 AM

I think the solution is really a simple one. The Republicans simply get their clown elected President, then all Republicans can join the Military and go fight on the front lines of all the wars they wish to start, legal or illegal. Its called leading by example, I mean - lets face it - anyone can sit at home hiding behind a computer and cry like a baby that someone else isn't doing their job while they do nothing about the situation themselves. Or, if you're too cowardly to fight yourself, just send your kids over there to die for your beliefs. This is from a Veteran whos been to the Middle East and really don't wish to go back there, so have at it Republicans, show us what you're all about and prove us wrong, get in there and kick their butts anytime you want. I know you'e not all just blowing a lot of smoke, are you?

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1 reply
Paul Castle dunedinmatt January 05 2014 at 12:50 PM

Sorry I am not a coward. 27 year of service will prove that. If you desire to not go to the ME then get out of the service is you have already gotten out thank you for your service.

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Hello Joe January 05 2014 at 11:12 AM

Kerry should not be saying what we will or wont do as a nation, that should come from the President.

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1 reply
eulerckt Hello Joe January 05 2014 at 11:24 AM

NO. That should come from us.

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clinton January 05 2014 at 11:04 AM

Does anybody else remember the last time we supported Iraq and Afghanistan? This whole Middle-East debacle is like watching a dog chase his tail. Our memories have become so short we can't remember what America is supposed to stand for, or against! Who is the next dictator we will support now, thanks to Kerry and Obama.

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por930 January 05 2014 at 11:03 AM

Kerry, the windsurfing idiot, has about the same intellectual capacity as the incompetent anti-American that appointed him.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
2 replies
Hello Joe por930 January 05 2014 at 11:15 AM

What does that say about everyone else? I mean these guys weild great power and authority given them by the majority, so what are we saying about our intellect if these guys are empowered over us?

Flag Reply +1 rate up
billmaske por930 January 05 2014 at 11:17 AM

That is right. Just tell us how many billions you want and we will send it soon. Insane.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
mrrplb January 05 2014 at 10:59 AM

soooo can we all say bring in the clowns. This whole administration is a circus. The as sir Hillary would say "WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE" . Really!!!!!

Flag Reply +5 rate up
stvknn January 05 2014 at 10:57 AM

Iraq wanted the us out they got what they wanted

Flag Reply +2 rate up
DICK CLARK January 05 2014 at 10:49 AM

about dam time they fought their own battles. let them burn their own flag.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
lyngtk January 05 2014 at 12:24 PM

Finally a voice of reasoning. It's "their" fight. Not ours. For once we need to keep our precious resources to our own country. Our young lives and billions of dollars. No more being the world police. We simply cannot afford it!

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1 reply
ljoanl lyngtk January 05 2014 at 12:28 PM

I agree, however, is he vowing to use taxpayers monies to support our enemy???

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
WADDLE05 ljoanl January 05 2014 at 12:41 PM

that exactly what republicans did in the frist place and only money but over 5000 lifes of our service men and women

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