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Published : 2014-01-14 19:53
Updated : 2014-01-14 19:53

BAGHDAD (AFP) ― U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Iraqi leaders to address the “root causes” of a surge in bloodshed as security forces clashed on Monday with gunmen in violence-racked Anbar province.

But Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, standing next to Ban at a joint news conference, insisted the Anbar unrest was not due to internal problems, and that dialogue with militants was not an option.

The U.N. chief’s visit to Baghdad comes just months ahead of general elections, at a time when Iraq is suffering its worst spate of unrest since 2008 and on a day when attacks killed 23 people.

Militants hold an entire city and parts of another on Baghdad’s doorstep ― the first time they have exercised such open control in major cities since the insurgency that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

“I would urge the leaders of the country ... to address the root causes of the problems,” Ban said.

“They should ensure that there is nobody left behind. There should be political cohesion” and “social cohesion, and political dialogue, inclusive dialogue.”

Ban’s remarks echoed U.S. calls for Iraqi officials to focus on political reconciliation in addition to ongoing military operations.

“The security situation in Iraq is undoubtedly a source of great concern,” said Ban, adding he was “deeply concerned by this escalation of violence in Anbar governorate.”

But Maliki insisted that “what is happening in Anbar has no relation to Iraqi problems,” and ruled out dialogue with jihadists.

Events in the province have united Iraqis, he said, and therefore “today, there is nothing called dialogue.”

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