Iran has offered help to Iraq as Iraqi troops try to dislodge fighters belonging to the al Qaeda group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant from two key cities in Anbar province, west of Baghdad.
The deputy chief of staff of Iran's armed forces for logistics and industrial research, Brigadier-General Mohammad Hejazi, was reported as saying in Tehran on Sunday that Iran was ready to provide Iraq with "military equipment or consultation" to help the Iraqi army in Anbar if it were asked to do so.
Iran is an ally of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shiite-led government.
Iraqi government officials in Anbar province met tribal leaders to urge them to help repel the militants who seized parts of Ramadi and Fallujah last week. Both cities are strategically situated on the Euphrates River.
Prime minister's appeal
In a message broadcast on state television on Monday, al-Maliki called on residents of Fallujah to drive out what he called "terrorists" holding the city to spare it an assault by the army.
Maliki urged "the people of Fallujah and its tribes to expel the terrorists" so "their areas are not subjected to the danger of armed clashes." The prime minister said he had ordered security forces "not to strike residential areas."
Iraqi government forces - battling what has become a more general al Qaeda offensive in the region bordering Syria - launched an airstrike on the city of Ramadi on Sunday, killing 25 Islamist militants, according to local officials.
While the US expressed concern about the situation and gave its support to the Iraqi government, Secretary of State John Kerry said there would not be any American forces on the ground to help them.
Anbar borders Syria and was the center of Iraq's Sunni insurgency after the 2003 US-led invasion. Iraqi police broke up a Sunni protest last week, resulting in deadly clashes and ongoing tension.
jm/tj (Reuters, AFP, AP)