U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pledged "intense" support for the troubled Iraqi government against what he described as the "existential threat" of Islamist militants in the nation.
Visiting Baghdad on Monday, Kerry pressed Iraqi leaders to put aside their sectarian differences to counter the Sunni insurgency, calling on the government to give more power to its political opponents.
Kerry's visit comes as the militant group known as ISIL has gained control over vast territories in northern and western Iraq, including the nation's main oil refinery north of Baghdad.
Kerry, in a closed-door meeting with the country's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as well as key Shia and Sunni figures, stressed that the future of Iraq rests on the decisions made in the coming days and weeks.
In response, Kerry said Prime Minister Maliki reaffirmed his commitment to forming a new, and more inclusive government by the first of July.
Maliki also reportedly asked that Washington carry out air strikes on key militant targets throughout Iraq and Syria.
Kerry said a great deal of care and caution would be needed before any attack was launched, but promised support in other ways.
"The support will be intense and sustained and if Iraq's leaders take the necessary steps to bring the country together, it will be effective.
In the meantime, Washington appears to be resting its hopes on a peace deal between Iraq's Shiite-dominated government and Sunni rebels, although with ISIL now in control of large parts of Iraq, such a deal feels far off.
Shin Se-min, Arirang News.