Middle East

Top U.S. official discussed Syria with Iraqi leaders

U.S. army officer LTC Ryan Wolfgram (C), commander of 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, gestures next to visiting U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Denis Mcdonough (R) and RC-South Commander Major General Robert Abrams at a combat Outpost DPC-A in Arghandab Valley in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan October 17, 2012. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama's deputy national security advisor was in Baghdad this week for talks with Iraqi leaders on issues including the spillover from the unrest in Syria, the White House said Wednesday.

Dennis McDonough met Monday with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, the speaker of Iraq's parliament as well other top officials, said National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor.

"In all of his meetings with Iraq's leaders, Mr. McDonough discussed Syria, with a particular focus on ensuring that violence from Syria does not degrade Iraq's domestic security," the statement read.

For months Washington has been pressing Baghdad to prevent Iran from sending weapons through Iraq to the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

McDonough also discussed how the United States and Iraq could further improve their partnership, including on counterterrorism.

The US official also stressed in the talks Obama's "support for Iraq's independent democratic institutions, and urged inclusive dialogue toward national reconciliation."

On Tuesday and Wednesday, McDonough was in Afghanistan, where he met with top Afghan officials and senior members of the US-led international coalition supporting the government of President Hamid Karzai.

McDonough discussed "the military campaign, the transition process, and the status of building and strengthening the Afghan National Security Forces to assume responsibility as US and coalition forces continue to draw down," the statement read.

McDonough also met with military personnel in eastern and southern Afghanistan "to hear their perspective on the challenges they face as we move forward, including the recent troubling trend of insider attacks and the mitigation steps being taken against them."





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