US Secretary of State John Kerry on a surprise Egypt visit yesterday urged Iraqi leaders to rise above "sectarian considerations" and said Washington was "not responsible" for the crisis.
Kerry had arrived in Cairo as part of a diplomatic mission to push Egypt toward democracy, but also to discuss the crisis in Iraq, where Sunni militants have made new advances in an offensive that has alarmed the region.
"ISIL (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant)... it's an ideology of violence and repression, [it's] a threat not only to Iraq but the entire region... this is a critical moment when we must urge Iraq's leaders to rise above sectarian considerations... and speak to all people," Kerry said at a joint news conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri.
The "US is not engaged in picking or choosing any one individual... it's up to the people of Iraq to choose their own leadership," Kerry said.
"The United States of America is not responsible for what happened in Libya, nor is it responsible for what is happening in Iraq today," he added. "The United States shed blood and worked hard for years for the Iraqis to have their own governance... but ISIL crossed the line from Syria [and] began plotting internally."
The comments came as Iran's top leader rejected possible intervention in Iraq by the US or other outside powers, accusing Washington on Sunday of trying to manipulate Iraqi sectarian differences to retake control of the country it once occupied.
In remarks published by the official IRNA news agency, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he strongly opposed intervention by the United States or other countries in Iraq.
Additional reporting by Reuters