WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden spoke on Wednesday for a second time this week to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, voicing support for the Baghdad government's effort to regain control of the city of Fallujah from al-Qaida-linked fighters.
The White House said Biden encouraged al-Maliki to continue talks with local, tribal and national leaders and said Biden welcomed al-Maliki's affirmation Wednesday that Iraqi elections will occur as scheduled in April.
The White House said al-Maliki described a series of political initiatives in the embattled Anbar province. Biden endorsed a decision by Iraq's Council of Ministers to provide state benefits to tribal forces killed or injured fighting al-Qaida-linked fighters.
Biden also spoke to al-Maliki on Monday, voicing concern about those suffering from terrorism.
On Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Kerry encouraged the Iraqi government to continue efforts to empower local officials and tribes to isolate the al-Qaida fighters and drive them out of populated areas.
"He assured the foreign minister that we will continue to provide technical military advice and enhancing material support and stressed that military efforts must be fused with political and economic efforts to isolate extremist groups," Psaki said.
Psaki said Kerry also told Zebari that having a political system that is inclusive of both Sunni and Shia sects is the only path to long-term stability.
Tensions have been simmering in Iraq since December 2012, when the Sunni community staged protests to denounce what they say is second-class treatments by al-Maliki's Shiite-led government.