A report by the British government claims that they are close to identifying the British national who beheaded the American journalist James Foley, the British ambassador to the United States said on Sunday.


With Islamic State fighters now in control of vast areas of northern Iraq, the country’s president-designate, Haider al-Abadi, used a meeting with the visiting Iranian foreign minister to call for greater international efforts to destroy the Islamist group.


Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran, a Shi’ite Muslim power likely to wield influence over the formation of Abadi’s new cabinet, reaffirmed Tehran’s support for Iraq’s territorial unity and its fight against militants.


“Abadi pointed to the presence of many dangers posed in the region as a result of the existence of the terrorist gang Islamic State, which requires regional and international efforts to exterminate this terrorist organisation,” the Iraqi leader’s office said in a statement after the talks with Zarif.


Iran would continue to stand by Iraq, Zarif said.


“Iran backs the unity of Iraq and the stabilising of security and considers that as a priority in its foreign policy,” he said.


Iran and Iraq fought a bloody eight-year war during the 1980s, but Shi’ite Tehran forged close ties with the Shi’ite-led governments that have dominated Iraq since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.


The advance of Islamic State through northern Iraq has alarmed the Baghdad government and its Western allies, prompting the first U.S. air strikes in Iraq since U.S. occupation forces pulled out in 2011.


The Sunni Muslim militant group sees Shi’ite Muslims – a majority in Iraq – as infidels who deserve to be killed and has driven thousands of non-Muslims from their homes.