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US raises diplomatic, military involvement in Iraq

The United States is increasing its diplomatic and military commitment to Iraq, as fierce fighting continues between Iraqi government forces and Islamic militants.

Government forces are carrying out air strikes on Sunni militants who are expanding their control in northern areas near the border with Syria. The United Nations said at least 1,000 people, mainly civilians, have died in fighting in Iraq over the past 2 weeks.

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq on Tuesday and met the leader of the regional government, Masoud Barzani.

The State Department said Kerry told Barzani that Iraq needed to stay united and urged the minority Kurds to cooperate in forming a national unity government.

Defense Department spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that 40 members of the special forces have started operations in Iraq as military advisors.

Jun. 24, 2014 - Updated 21:03 UTC