DOHA - Islamist scholars led by influential Qatar-based cleric Youssef al-Qaradawi urged Arab and Islamic states on Thursday to protect Sunni Muslims in Iraq, where sectarian war threatens after Sunni Islamist insurgents overran much of the country's north.

Fighters from the radical Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) seized a swathe of northern Iraqi towns last week in a southwards thrust towards Baghdad, stunning the country's Shi'ite Muslim-led central government.

The United States is considering an Iraqi request to launch air strikes on ISIL and Iran's president said on Wednesday his countrymen would not hesitate to defend Shi'ite shrines in Iraq.

Iraq's energy-rich Gulf Arab neighbors, all Sunni monarchies, have condemned ISIL but blame the Baghdad government for the crisis by failing to share power with Iraq's Sunni minority.

"Sunnis have suffered a great injustice and severe exclusion, so it is natural to make a popular revolution against injustices," the International Union of Muslim Scholars said in a statement issued from Doha in Qatar.


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