Joe Biden praises Iraqi progress against Islamic State

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Joe Biden delivering a speech on 9 AprilImage source, AP
Image caption,
Joe Biden said Iraqis "don't want to be puppets dangling on a string"

US Vice-President Joe Biden has given an upbeat assessment of Iraq's progress against Islamic State (IS) militants.

IS was "on the offensive everywhere in Iraq" eight months ago, but now their advance had been "halted", he said.

However, he urged Iraqi leaders not to lose the sense of political urgency that brought them to this point.

Mr Biden was speaking ahead of a planned meeting between Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and US President Barack Obama next week.

Iraqi government forces recaptured Tikrit from IS last week after it fell to the militants in June.

Mr Abadi has named Anbar province, where IS and other Sunni insurgents still operate freely, as the next target.

Anbar, a heavily-Sunni area stretching west from the capital Baghdad to the Syrian border, is the country's biggest province. Most of its towns and cities are held by IS or other Sunni insurgents.

'Irony of ironies'

Mr Biden said that IS militants had helped unite Iraqis.

"The irony of all ironies is that Iraq was actually helped [to] form its government because of [IS]."

Iraq's government under Mr Abadi had taken "promising" steps to reach out to Sunnis, while Iraqi and Kurdish forces had rolled back IS across the country, backed up by US-led air power, he added.

The rapid advance across Syria and Iraq by IS fighters last year threw the region into chaos.