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Kerry begins assembling coalition to stand against Islamic State

Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony for the U.S. Diplomacy Center, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, at the State Department in Washington. Kerry hosted five of his predecessors in a rare public reunion for the groundbreaking of a museum commemorating the achievements of American statesmanship. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Secretary of State John Kerry announced Wednesday that the has begun the work of building an international coalition to rein in the Islamic State, and said he would use the work of former Secretary of State James Baker as a model.

Baker organized a United Nations coalition in the first Gulf War, and Kerry praised that work as a "gold standard" that he would try to live up to in the weeks ahead. Kerry, Baker and other former secretaries of State gathered in Washington Wednesday to break ground on a new U.S. Diplomacy Center.

Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday he will use former secretary of State James Baker's work as a template as he builds a coalition against Islamic State. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

"His work to build a global coalition to confront Saddam Hussein ahead of Operation Desert Storm to this very day is the gold standard by which modern coalition building is judged, and which I will personally use as I go out in the next days to work on the ISIL issue," Kerry said of Baker's work. The Islamic State is alternatively called ISIL or ISIS.

Despite Kerry's reference to the first Gulf War, State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki stressed that so far, the administration is not talking about using the military.

"The focus of our discussion now is about using the resources and the capabilities that a range of countries have to coordinate as we take on the threat of ISIL."

Still, she said Kerry and other U.S. officials are approaching several countries to ask what they can contribute to the effort to rein in the Islamic State, which has overrun huge portions of Syria and Iraq.

"It's a broad range of countries," she said. "Just yesterday, he spoke with his Australian counterpart, his Emerati counterpart, Jordanian counterpart, Qatari." She said he also spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as Saudi Arabia's ambassador and the Italian foreign minister.

"These calls will continue, as will our travel," she said.

Psaki said U.S. officials are working to understand what capacity each coalition member might bring to the effort. "It is a determination of what resources and assets that any country has," she said.

Kerry argued last week that an international coalition is needed to ensure the Islamic State does not expand its presence and threaten more countries with terrorist acts.

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