LONDON (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Thursday he feared lower revenues from falling global oil prices could hurt his country’s military campaign against Islamic State.
Speaking after attending a meeting of members of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State in London, Abadi said allies could help by potentially allowing Baghdad to defer payment for ammunition and weapons.
“Oil prices have dropped to about 40 percent of their level last year. Iraq’s economy and budget relies 85 percent on oil and this has been disastrous for us,” he told a news conference.
“We don’t want to see a reverse of our military victory due to our fiscal and budget problems.”
His comments came as U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in Washington blasted some of Abadi’s recent criticism of the pace of past U.S. and coalition efforts to support Iraq.
“I do disagree with the prime minister’s comments. I would say, even further, I don’t think they’re helpful,” Hagel told a news briefing.
“We have a coalition of over 60 countries that have come together to help Iraq. And I think the prime minister might want to be a little more mindful of that.”
While Abadi has criticized the help given Iraq in recent comments to the media, his tone on Thursday was more one of pleading, as he asked repeatedly for more weapons and support.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who was in London for the meeting, said the struggle would be a long one but Iraq should not worry it would not have the weaponry to finish the job.
A large consignment of U.S.-made M16 rifles would be arriving in Iraq “very, very shortly,” he said.
Kerry said Iraqi ground forces, backed by coalition air strikes, have taken back 700 square km (270 sg miles) of territory in Iraq from Islamic State. U.S. and allied officials acknowledge that the fight against Islamic State in Syria will take longer than in Iraq.
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Stuart Jones was quoted by Al Arabiya News Channel on Thursday saying airstrikes had killed more than 6,000 Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq. Hagel said thousands had been killed but played down the importance of any body count.
“I was in a war where there was a lot of body counts every day. And we lost that war,” said Hagel, a Vietnam veteran.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the London meeting planned the next steps of the coalition’s campaign against Islamic State in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. That included doing more militarily, more to cut off the group’s finances, and more to stem the flow of foreign fighters.
Hammond said that the coalition could take up to two years to expel Islamic State from Iraq, and that Baghdad’s own forces would be incapable of proper combat operations for months.
Abadi met British Prime Minister David Cameron before the meeting and asked for more military training and ammunition.
Britain has taken part in air strikes against Islamic State forces, trained Iraqi troops, and provided some equipment already. Cameron told Abadi that Britain was ready to help, but stopped short of making any new commitments.
“The threat from extremist terror you face in Iraq is also a threat we face here in the United Kingdom,” he said. “We will do everything we can to help stop foreign fighters coming to your country and creating the mayhem we see today.”
The meeting took place a day after Kurdish forces in northern Iraq said they had broken an Islamic State supply line between Mosul and strongholds to the west.
Additional reporting by Kylie MacLellan, Michael Holden, William James and Ahmed Aboulenein in London; Phil Stewart in Washington; Editing by Stephen Addison, Andrew Roche, David Storey and Christian Plumb