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US baulks at new push as UN warns of Iraq bloodbath

The United Nations is warning of "murder of all kinds" and other war crimes in the fast-deteriorating Iraqi war zone, where officials say the number killed in recent days could run into the hundreds and those wounded could approach 1,000.

UN high commissioner for human rights Navi Pillay said her office had received reports that Iraqi army soldiers and 17 civilians had been rounded up and killed by militants in a single street in Mosul.

Ms Pillay said her office is also hearing of summary executions and extra-judicial killings as fighters from the al Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant overran a succession of major Iraqi towns and cities.

Nevertheless, Barack Obama has said the US will not be sending more troops into combat to deal with the militants, but will explore "a range of other options".

Addressing the media on the White House lawn, the US president said the White House would pursue diplomatic solutions in Iraq and the surrounding region.

He was reacting as the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant threatened to press forward to the country's capital Baghdad.

Iraq has faced resurgent violence since the US military withdrew in late 2011.

A sharp burst of violence this week led to the evacuation of Americans from a major air base in northern Iraq where the US had been training security forces.

"We do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold," Mr Obama said yesterday in the Oval Office.

Republican politicians pinned some of the blame for the escalating violence on Mr Obama's reluctance to re-engage in a conflict he long opposed. For more than a year, the Iraqi government has been pleading with the US for additional help to combat the insurgency, which has been fuelled by the civil war in neighbouring Syria.

Northern Iraq has become a way station for insurgents who routinely travel between the two countries and are spreading the Syrian war's violence.

Iraqi leaders made a fresh request earlier this week, asking for a mix of drones and manned aircraft that could be used for surveillance and active missions.

The US is already flying unmanned aircraft over Iraq for intelligence purposes, an official said.

Nearly all American troops left Iraq in December 2011 after Washington and Baghdad failed to negotiate a security agreement that would have kept a limited number of US forces in the country for a few more years.

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