WASHINGTON, June 19 (Xinhua) -- Secretary of State John Kerry stressed on Thursday that any U.S. intervention in Iraq to help stem the advances by Islamic militants is not meant to support the country's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
"This is not about al-Maliki," the top American envoy told NBC' s "Today" program in an interview. "Let me stress, what the United States is doing is about Iraq. And nothing that the president decides to do is going to be focused specifically on Prime Minister al-Maliki."
President Barack Obama is scheduled to deliver a statement on Iraq at 12:30 p.m. EDT (1630 GMT) following a meeting with members of his national security team, the White House said Thursday.
There is a growing chorus of calls in Washington for al-Maliki to step down and pave the way for reconciliation among the country 's dividing sects, though the White House has not publicly endorsed the idea.
Asked about U.S. slow response to the lightening advances by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, whose fighters are pressing on to the capital city of Baghdad after seizing two major cities in northern Iraq -- Mosul and Tikrit -- in recent days, Kerry said "Not the least of which is we didn't have operational theater capacity at that point in time, partly because Prime Minister al-Maliki denied the kind of permissions necessary."
The U.S. had moved its aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush from the North Arabian Sea into the Gulf days ago.
Kerry said the United States is "deeply concerned" about the Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant, an offshoot of al-Qaida. " They represent a threat to every country in the region," he explained. "They are more extreme even than al-Qaida, and they are threatening the United States and western interests."
The White House said Obama has put all options on the table, except for sending back U.S. troops into combat in Iraq, including airstrikes as requested by al-Maliki.
The Pentagon has planned to send special forces to Iraq, with focus on intelligence gathering, according to a CNN report.