imageWASHINGTON: The United States may take military action to support Baghdad in its battle against Rebels but only if Iraq takes steps to heal its sectarian divide, President Barack Obama said on Friday.

Obama warned that US ground troops would not be sent back into the country they occupied for eight difficult, violent years, but said recent stunning rebel victories were a threat to US interests.

Amid reports the Pentagon is drawing up plans for air strikes against ISIL, the militants force that has seized the Iraqi city of Mosul, Obama warned that Iraq must also help itself.

“We will not be sending US troops back into combat in Iraq, but I have asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraqi security forces," he said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government has launched its own counter-attack against ISIL, but has also asked the United States to provide military assistance.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby declined to say what kind of response was being prepared, adding: “Our job is to provide the commander-in-chief options. We are doing that."

'Enormous' US interests:

He confirmed that the US aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush and its strike group are in the region and ready to act. The US navy said the carrier group was in the Arabian Sea.