The administration of US President Barack Obama has signalled its reluctance to launch air strikes in Iraq or intervene militarily in support of its government, telling Congress that a bombing campaign would be fraught with complications and that Iraq's political divisions needed to be addressed first.
They said Obama told them he was still reviewing his options, but that he was mainly considering ways to bolster assistance for Iraq's security forces.
At the same time, some lawmakers said, Obama told them he would not seek Congress' formal approval should he decide that military force was necessary - a sore point for several members of both parties.
Obama "indicated he didn't feel he had any need for authority from us for steps he might take", said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi concurred with the president, saying in a statement after the meeting that Obama does not need "any further legislative authority to pursue the particular options for increased security assistance discussed today". She did not specify what options were discussed.
The White House said Obama reviewed efforts "to strengthen the capacity of Iraq's security forces" in their fight against Sunni Muslim insurgents who have seized several key cities and overwhelmed the Iraqi army.
Additional reporting by Associated Press