Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has rejected U.S. and other foreign calls for a more inclusive government as a “coup.” Maliki spoke earlier today following the departure of Secretary of State John Kerry, who had visited Baghdad and the northern Kurdish region to press for a reconciliation agreement between Iraqi leaders. The Obama administration has apparently conditioned U.S. strikes against Sunni militants on a more inclusive central Iraqi government. But Maliki issued what appeared to be a strong rebuke.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki: “It is no secret to all Iraqis, the dangerous goals behind the call for the formation of a national salvation government, as they call it. It is simply an attempt by those who rebel against the constitution to end the young democratic process and confiscate the opinions of the voters and circumvent the constitutional merits. The call for the formation of a national salvation government is a coup against the constitution and the political process.”

U.S. Flies Surveillance over Iraq; Syria Bombs Sunni Targets

Comments by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki come as about 90 of the 300 U.S. Special Forces deployed to Iraq as “military advisers” have now arrived. The Pentagon says U.S. aircraft are flying up to 35 surveillance flights over Iraq daily. Meanwhile, the Syrian government waded into the Iraq crisis on Tuesday when it bombed Sunni militants near the Iraq-Syria border. The Syrian strike comes just two days after Israel bombed targets inside Syria. Militants with ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, meanwhile, have launched new attacks, hitting one of Iraq’s largest air bases near the town of Yathrib. Fighting between Iraqi forces and ISIS is also continuing for control of the oil refinery in Baiji.

U.S. Talks Iraq Crisis with NATO Allies

Speaking during his visit to the Kurdish regional capital of Erbil, Secretary of State John Kerry urged Kurdish leaders to remain a part of Iraq instead of forming an independent state.

Secretary of State John Kerry: “As everybody knows, this is a very critical time for Iraq as a whole, and the government formation challenge is the central challenge that we face. In recent days, the security cooperation between the forces here in the Kurdish area has been really critical to helping to draw a line with respect to ISIL and also to provide some support to the Iraqi security forces.”

Kerry is in Brussels today for talks with NATO allies on the Iraq crisis.