As aid groups tried to cope with the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by Islamist advances in northern Iraq, ingredients of a fightback began falling into place.

In New York, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution aimed at weakening Islamists in Iraq and Syria by cutting off funding and the flow of foreign fighters.

And EU ministers agreed at an emergency meeting in Brussels to back the arming of Iraqi Kurdish fighters.

The ministers said they welcomed ‘the decision by individual member states to respond positively to the call by the Kurdish regional authorities to provide urgently military material.’

On Maliki's decision to step down, US National Security Adviser Susan Rice said it was ‘another major step forward’ in uniting Iraq, where so-called Islamic States jihadists have snapped up large swathes of land in a lightning and brutal offensive, raising the specter of genocide.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon also welcomed the divisive Maliki's move and called for the swift formation of ‘an inclusive, broad-based government ready to immediately tackle these pressing issues.’

Support for Maliki's designated replacement, Haidar al-Abadi, has poured in from sources as diverse as Iran and Saudi Arabia.

When jihadist forces launched their offensive on June 9, Kurdish peshmerga forces initially fared better than retreating federal soldiers, but the abandoned US-made weaponry government troops left in their wake turned IS into a formidable foe.

Jihadists advanced within miles of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan last week, which was one of the factors that triggered US air strikes and broad foreign support for the cash-strapped Kurds.

When the jihadists, who have controlled parts of Syria for months, swept across the Sunni heartland of Iraq in early June, they encountered little or no resistance.

Latest News from World News Desk