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UK Ambassador Sees No Immediate Air Strike on Iraq

British Ambassador to the U.S. Peter Westmacott
At a June 13 breakfast meeting with Bloomberg Government editors and reporters, British Ambassador to the U.S. Peter Westmacott said that "no such decisions have been taken" on air strikes against Islamic militant sweeping through Iraq, but that "I understand it’s not been ruled out." (Photo: David Banks/Bloomberg)

Neither the U.S. nor the U.K. has decided to launch air strikes against the Islamic militants sweeping through Iraq, British Ambassador to the U.S. Peter Westmacott said today.

“We’re not at the point yet where anybody is looking at the specifics of air strikes,” Westmacott said today at a Bloomberg Government breakfast in Washington. He also said, “I understand it’s not been ruled out,” and that “as far as I’m aware, no such decisions have been taken.”

U.S. President Barack Obama said today that developing any plan, including potential military action, would take “several days” and require “a political plan by the Iraqis that give us some assurance that they’re prepared to work together.”

The government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, has largely excluded from power the country’s Sunni minority. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, a militant Sunni group, has pushed through the north and west of Iraq and advanced toward Baghdad, the capital.

The Pentagon is planning increased unmanned, unarmed surveillance flights over Iraq, according to U.S. defense officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of an announcement.

Westmacott said that the U.K., U.S. and allies need to consult with one another and the Iraqi government, which, he said “of course has the principal responsibility of dealing with its own domestic security.”

‘Right Targets’

“Clearly, if anyone did decide any of our governments, they wanted to go down that path they need to be very, very sure that they had the information that they needed to ensure that any targets were the right targets.”

Westmacott described the Sunni insurgency as “one of the most disturbing developments that we’ve had in a number of disturbing developments in recent months.”

“ At the moment what we’re looking at is what can we most usefully do that would help,” he said.“I do not believe that our governments, our countries, are looking at the option of what we call boots on the ground, but we are concerned by what is going on there.”

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