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Obama: U.S., France 'United' Against Terror

  • RFE/RL

U.S. President Barack Obama (right) and French President Francois Hollande arrive for a joint news conference after their meeting at the White House on November 24.

U.S. President Barack Obama (right) and French President Francois Hollande arrive for a joint news conference after their meeting at the White House on November 24.

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Barack Obama said the United States and France "stand united" against terrorism, adding that the Islamic State militant group and its ideology "pose a serious threat to all of us."

“It cannot be tolerated. It must be destroyed. And we must do it together,” Obama said.

Speaking November 24 at a White House news conference with French President Francois Hollande, Obama also urged the European Union to implement an agreement to share more airline passenger information between Washington and Europe.

“We need to have a joint, collective, and implacable response to Daesh. France and the United States are united to provide this response,” Hollande said, using an alternate name for Islamic State.

Hollande’s visit to Washington came 11 days after suicide bombers and gunmen stunned the French capital, attacking night clubs, restaurants, a soccer stadium, and other sites in what was Europe’s worst terrorist attack in more than a decade.

The November 13 attacks killed 130, wounded more than 350, and prompted a multinational police dragnet searching for accomplices and other potential terrorist plots. More than 100 people have been charged in France and Belgium.

IS militants claimed responsibility for the assaults, which prompted the United States to issue a worldwide travel alert to its citizens.

Hollande said it was urgent to close the Turkey-Syria border and to prevent terrorists from traveling to Europe.

The French president added that he and Obama agreed to step up air strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq. He also said that the two countries will strengthen their intelligence sharing in order to fight the extremist group.

Hollande cautioned that France would not deploy ground troops to Syria, something that a growing number of military experts have said would be necessary if the West is to defeat the radical militants, who have seized vast territory in Syria and Iraq.

"France will not intervene militarily on the ground," Hollande said. "It is for the local forces to do so."

The United States has deployed several dozen special forces troops to Syria to help Kurdish militias in their fight against Islamic State. In Iraq, U.S. special operations units have been advising and guiding Iraqi Kurdish and other fighters trying to take back territory from Islamic State.

Obama praised the people of Paris for showing the world how to stay strong in the face of terrorism.

"It's been noted that the terrorists did not direct their attacks against the French government or military,” Obama said. “Rather, they focused their violence on the very spirit of France and, by extension, on all liberal democracies.”

He also said that the United States would not succumb to fear.

"We will win and groups like ISIL will lose,” he said.

Hollande has vowed to forge a united coalition capable of defeating IS militants at home and abroad. The French leader is meeting other world leaders this week and will travel to Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Hollande said he will tell Putin on November 25 that the Russian air strikes should target Islamic State fighters, not moderate Syrian opposition groups.

“I will [tell] President Putin something I’ve already told the Russians a number of times: that the strikes should be organized against Daesh, against terrorism, against those who are threatening us and the Russians,” he said.

Asked about a deadline for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to resign, Hollande said he would not provide a date. But he said it should be “as soon as possible.”

The United States and other Western countries have said that Assad must eventually go as part of any negotiated solution in Syria.

With reporting by Golnaz Esfandiari and AFP and Reuters