WASHINGTON, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on the phone, underscoring American support for and assistance to Iraq in its fight against an al-Qaida-linked group.
In both leaders' second phone call within a week, Biden encouraged Maliki to continue to work with local, tribal, and national leaders and welcomed his decision to extend state benefits to tribal forces killed or injured in fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), commonly known as al- Qaida in Iraq, the White House said in a statement.
ISIL fighters seized both Fallujah and Ramadi, two major cities in the western province of Al Anbar, last week, marking the first time that the militants have managed to take ground since American troops withdrew from Iraq in late 2011.
The Iraqi security forces took back Ramadi Monday, but sporadic clashes continued on the outskirts of the city.
Maliki updated Biden on the situation in Anbar, including a series of political initiatives that are underway at the local and national levels, according to the statement summarizing the telephone call.
Biden welcomed Maliki's briefing affirming that Iraqi elections will be held as scheduled, as well as the prime minister's commitment to ensuring that humanitarian aid is reaching people in need, the statement said.
In the two leaders' previous telephone call Monday, Biden expressed concern for Iraqis "who are suffering at the hands of the terrorists" and praised the cooperation between Iraqi security forces and local and tribal forces in Anbar, according to the White House.
The Obama administration is speeding up weapons deliveries to the Iraqi government to help combat the ISIL, which is also making inroads to rebel-held parts of Syria.