BAGHDAD — President Barack Obama has deployed more troops to Baghdad to protect the US embassy as Iraq's parliament was set to convene on Tuesday to seek a solution to the country's sectarian crisis.
"In light of the security situation in Baghdad, I have ordered up to approximately 200 additional US Armed Forces personnel to Iraq to reinforce security at the US Embassy, its support facilities, and the Baghdad International Airport," Obama said in a letter to Congress released on Monday.
"This force is deploying for the purpose of protecting US citizens and property, if necessary, and is equipped for combat."
The latest deployment which the Pentagon said had arrived in Iraq on Sunday brings the number of US troops and embassy security forces to 800, following the sudden advance of the Sunni militants that has left nearly 2,000 people dead this month.
Iraqi forces meanwhile pressed a counter-offensive Monday against executed dictator Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, one of a string of towns and cities overrun by jihadist-led fighters.
An army officer said troops controlled parts of the outskirts of the city, some 160 kilometresnorth of Baghdad, which the militants captured on June 11.
The conflict has displaced hundreds of thousands and piled pressure on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
Maliki's bid for a third term in office has been battered by the offensive and he is no longer seen as the clear frontrunner when the new parliament elected in April holds its opening session on Tuesday.
World leaders and leading clerics have pressed Iraqi leaders to unite and quickly form a government, but despite the urgency, politicians have warned that the process of choosing a new prime minister could take more than a month. — AFP