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'We Welcome' Syrian Airstrikes On ISIS, Iraqi Leader Maliki Says

Iraqis who have fled as the Sunni extremist group ISIS has spread in northern Iraq enter a camp for displaced people between the Iraqi city of Mosul and the Kurdish city of Irbil on Thursday. Iraq's leader says he welcomes Syria's attacks on ISIS.
Hussein Malla

With both Iraq and Syria facing threats from the extremist group ISIS, a recent attack by Syrian warplanes along the countries' border was a welcome development, says Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He says that he didn't ask for the airstrikes — but he doesn't have a problem with them, either.

"There was no coordination involved," Maliki tells the BBC. "But we welcome this action. We actually welcome any Syrian strike against ISIS. ... But we didn't make any request to Syria. They carry out their strikes and we carry out ours, and the final winners are our two countries."

The rise of ISIS also represents "a clash between two arch-terrorists" who lead al-Qaida and the Sunni extremist group, as NPR's Dina Temple-Raston reports for the Parallels blog.

To fight ISIS in Iraq, Maliki says, the country has bought used Sukhoi fighter jets from Russia and Belarus, which could be deployed within days. The move came after the U.S. delayed the sale of F-16 fighters, the BBC says.

Syrian jets reportedly hit targets along the border — and within Iraq — earlier this week, in attacks that were said to account for dozens of deaths in western Iraq.

"In the provinces close to the Syrian border where extremist groups are holding ground, officials and eyewitnesses have for several days reported bombings by planes not known to be part of the Iraqi air force," NPR's Alice Fordham reports from Baghdad. "But Syrian state media said that reports of sorties by Syrian planes were false."

Iraq's Shiite-led central government has been under increasing pressure as the Sunni ISIS group claims new territory and supporters in the country, exploiting sectarian tensions and what's widely seen as an uncommitted defense force.

Maliki has resisted calls for him to either step down or to form a unity government, insisting that the country's recent elections give his party the authority to lead as it sees fit.

Iraq's parliament will convene on Tuesday, July 1, Reutersreports, to begin the process of establishing a new government.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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