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UN chief warns Iraqi forces: Stay out of politics

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday it is "imperative" that Iraqi security forces refrain from intervening in the political process leading to the formation of a new government that must tackle the takeover of a large swath of the north by Islamic extremists.

He warned that heightened political tensions and the security threat from the Islamic State extremist group, which is backed by Sunni militants, could plunge the country into even deeper crisis.

Ban urged prime minister-designate Haider al-Abadi to form a broad-based government acceptable to all parts of Iraqi society.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite who insists he should have a third term, has rejected the president's appointment of al-Abadi, a fellow Shiite, and ordered his elite troops into the street Monday. Al-Maliki's critics blame him for contributing to Iraq's political crisis by monopolizing power and pursuing a pro-Shiite sectarian agenda that alienated the country's Sunni and Kurdish minorities.

Ban criticized leaders in Iraq and many other places for failing to promote an inclusive society, which has allowed groups including the Islamic State to take root.

The U.N. chief warned at a news conference that "the poison of hatred and brutality" is spreading in Iraq, and he reiterated that the Islamic State group is threatening Iraq, Syria and the region.

Ban said he is "profoundly dismayed" by the barbaric attacks carried out by the Islamic State group including summary executions, boys taken from their homes to fight and girls abducted or trafficked as sex slaves.

The group's takeover of a large swath of western and northern Iraq is forcing hundreds of thousands of people to live in fear in a "very dire humanitarian situation," Ban said.

"We have very limited capacity at this time," he said.

The secretary-general praised the efforts of the United States and some European countries who have been trying to help the Iraqi government and the Kurdish regional government to prevent the further spread of the Islamic State group.

Ban again condemned "in the strongest possible terms" the group's persecution of minorities and those opposed to its extremist ideology, and he urged the international community to do even more to help rescue Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar.

"Air drops of food and water are reaching some of the trapped people," he said. "But the situation on the mountain is dire. And even when people manage to find a way out, they remain exposed to searing heat and a perilous odyssey."

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