UK & World News
Iraq Accuses Saudi Arabia Of Promoting 'Genocide'
Iraq's Shia leaders have accused Saudi Arabia of promoting "genocide" by backing Sunni militants, as Baghdad battles insurgents who have seized swathes of territory.
Defying calls from the West to reach out and defuse the crisis, a government statement said: "We hold them responsible for supporting these groups financially and morally, and for the outcome of that - which includes crimes that may qualify as genocide: the spilling of Iraqi blood, the destruction of Iraqi state institutions and historic and religious sites."
Riyadh denies backing fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and said on Monday that sectarianism in Iraq was fuelling the violence.
But later in an apparent bid to bridge divisions, and more crucially secure US assistance in pushing back ISIS, Iraq's Shia Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki made a joint statement with Sunni and Kurdish leaders, calling for citizens to put aside their differences and unite as Iraqis, in the face of the sweeping militant offensive.
Washington wants Mr al Maliki to reach out to the minority Sunnis, whose sense of exclusion has been exploited by the Islamic extremists.
It came as authorities confirmed at least 13 people were killed and 30 others wounded by a car bomb in a crowded outdoor market in Baghdad's Shia Sadr City district.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has warned there is a "real risk" of sectarian violence on a "massive scale" as a result of the conflict.
And Prime Minister David Cameron said insurgencies by religious extremists in Syria and Iraq is the most serious threat Britain faces today, with the prospect of battle-hardened militants returning to the UK.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Mr Cameron said: "We will do absolutely everything we can to keep our people safe. That means stopping people from going, it means arresting people who are involved in plots, it means focusing our security, our policing, our intelligence effort on to that area of the world, on to those people."
Meanwhile, Mr al Maliki has sacked four top security officers for failing to stop Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, falling into insurgent hands.
It is one of a number of towns and cities in northern Iraq lost to the sweeping advance by ISIS rebels.
Clashes overnight in Baquba, less than 40 miles from Baghdad, left 44 prisoners dead at a police station after insurgents tried to storm the jail.
And the bodies of 18 Iraqi security personnel were also found outside the city of Samarra.
Although still in government hands, Iraq's biggest oil refinery at Baiji has been shut down, threatening power and water supplies.
In response to the crisis, US President Barack Obama announced on Monday that up to 275 troops could be sent to Iraq to provide security for US personnel and the US Embassy in Baghdad.
The White House is also considering sending special forces to train and advise Iraqi troops.