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Syrian President Bashar Assad has held talks with Russia's deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov in Damascus.
At a news conference earlier in the day, Ryabkov expressed his concerns about the spread of militant groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
He said a united effort, working with the United States and its allies in Europe, was needed to combat the threat posed by such insurgents. Ryabkov also met Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.
Moscow, which is trying to raise its diplomatic and economic influence in the Middle East, has given Assad crucial support during the three-year civil war and blocked wider Western attempts to punish him with sanctions for the use of force against civilians.
Helicopter gunships supported Iraqi government forces as they began an offensive to retake the northern city of Tikrit from Islamist militants.
Troops were trying to advance on the city from the city of Samarra, a city to the south of Tikrit but around an hour's drive to the north of Baghdad.
The city has become the military's line in the sand against the advancing ISIL fighters.
Helicopter also gunships fired at targets in Tikrit and Isis fighters abandoned the city's governorate building, security sources said. More government troops had been air-dropped in a pocket just north of the city.
Iraqi military spokesman Qassim Atta told reporters in Baghdad that 29 "terrorists" were killed in Tikrit on Friday and that militant commanders were struggling because, "their morale has started to collapse."
The US has armed drones flying over Baghdad to protect US troops that recently arrived to assess Iraq's deteriorating security, the Pentagon said.
The decision to arm some of the drones follows the deployment to Baghdad of troops who will advise and assist Iraqi counter-terrorism forces.
"The reason that some of those aircraft are armed is primarily for force protection reasons now that we have introduced into the country some military advisers whose objective will be to operate outside the confines of the embassy," the defence department's press secretary said.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff chair, General Martin Dempsey, said: "We're flying a great deal (of) manned and unmanned ... intelligence and reconnaissance assets, and we're building a picture so that if the decision were made to support the Iraqi security forces as they confront (ISIS), we could do so."
Pressure is intensifying on the Iraqi government to find a political solution to the threat of Isis extremists.
The country's most influential Shia cleric has called for a prime minister to be chosen within three days.
ITV News Middle East Correspondent Geraint Vincent reports.
Foreign Secretary William Hague tweeted following his meeting with Kurdish Regional Government leaders in northern Iraq:
Iraq's top cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has called on political blocs to agree on a prime minister before Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.
Iraq's parliament is set to meet on Tuesday to elect a new government.
Foreign Secretary William Hague has tweeted from Iraq:
The Foreign Secretary William Hague has called for politicians in Iraq to put aside sectarian differences to confront the "existential" threat from Isis led Sunni fighters.
Mr Hague is due to meet with Shia prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and other key figures. Arriving in Baghdad he said:
Three Iraq Air Force helicopters landed inside the university stadium of rebel-controlled Tikrit city, security sources said, as the army attempts to fight the Sunni militants that have taken control of large parts of the north of the country.
The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said fighting centred around the university compound. Tikrit in northern Iraq fell to Sunni insurgents on June 12
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The Foreign Secretary has been clear on the threat of Isis, but he has ruled out the prospect of any UK military involvement in the crisis.
Iraq’s foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, is a natural diplomat. Polite, immaculately dressed, and blessed with a great memory.