Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has pledged in talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry to use his influence to encourage Sunni Muslims to join a new, more inclusive Iraqi government to better combat rebels, a senior US official said on Saturday.
After a week of frenetic diplomacy by Kerry tackling the threat of Iraq's disintegration, Abdullah's assurance marked a significant shift from Riyadh's insistence on the removal of Nour al-Maliki.
The US official said the Saudi monarch voiced deep concern to Kerry about ISIL.
"It was clear that the two shared a view that all of Iraq's community should be participating on an urgent basis in the political process to allow it to move forward, and that each - both the Secretary and King Abdullah in their conversations with Iraqi leaders - would convey that message directly to them," the US State Department told the Associated Press.
Until now Saudi Arabia had been unwilling to support the formation of a new government unless Maliki, accused by critics of a sectarian agenda dedicated to Shi'ite supremacy over Sunnis, stepped aside and does not seek a third term.
King Abdullah, however, made clear that the kingdom "was not in any way interfering inside Iraq's politics."
"That doesn't mean they don't have conversations with - and relationships with - Iraqi political leaders..."
The senior State Department official was cautious about whether the new government would be formed by then.
"It would be an extremely positive development if we got there. I don't think it's impossible, but it's also Iraq," said the official, noting that "a large number of deadlines for various steps and various political processes, and only a small number that were actually met."