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Paris Meeting Promises 'Appropriate Military Aid' To Iraq

  • RFE/RL

Some 30 countries and organizations attending a Paris conference on Iraq have agreed to provide Baghdad with "appropriate military aid" to combat the Islamic State (IS) militant group.

A joint statement issued by the mostly Western and Arab countries after the September 15 talks said that tackling IS militants is a "matter of urgency."

However, it did not elaborate on what military aid was being considered.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said at the end of the meeting that a separate conference on ways to curb the funding for the IS group will be organized "soon" by Bahrein.

Fabius added that the international community must also stop the influx of foreign fighters who are joining the IS.

Iraqi President Fuad Masum earlier told the conference that a “quick” and persistent aerial campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq, saying the group could seize more territory and become an even bigger threat without immediate action.

Masum told the gathering that “swift and radical decisions are required” against Islamic State militants, saying they were “gangsters” who have committed genocide and crimes against humanity in an attempt at “ethnic and religious purification.”

Masum also called for global cooperation to cut off the finances of the militant group and for legislation that would help prevent it from recruiting fighters from other countries.

French President Francois Hollande said that Islamic State militants pose a global threat that demands a global response.

France started reconnaissance flights over Iraq on September 15 in support of the campaign.

It is flying planes out of the Al-Dhafra base in the United Arab Emirates with the consent of Iraqi and Emirati authorities.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is attending the Paris conference after a Middle East tour during which 10 Gulf Arab countries pledged cooperation in the international campaign against the militant group.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Kerry refuted claims by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that Tehran had rejected a request by the United States for Iran to cooperate against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

The United States has been supporting Iraqi government forces since August with air strikes.

Britain also is conducting surveillance flights over Iraq from its regional base in Cyprus but has so far held back from carrying out air strikes on militants.

So far, only France has publicly offered to join U.S. air strikes on Islamic State targets, although limiting these to militants in Iraq.

U.S. President Barack Obama announced on September 10 that Washington would step up air strikes, potentially targeting militants based in Syria in addition to Iraq, and try to build an international coalition to degrade and eventually destroy the group.

Kerry has said that the United States would not coordinate its air strikes with Syrian government forces.

On September 14, a U.S. State Department official said several Arab countries had offered to conduct air strikes against Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria.

Also on September 14, Australia offered 600 troops and 10 military aircraft for the campaign.

The Paris conference comes after Islamic State militants released a video showing the beheading of British aid worker David Haines.

The group, which has seized large swaths of territory in northern and western Iraq since June, also has posted videos showing the beheadings of two American journalists it had held hostage in Syria -- James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

It is threatening to kill another British captive unless Britain halts its support for Iraqi government forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters who are battling the militants in Iraq.

The videos have led to pledges for greater international cooperation against Islamic State militants.

Meanwhile, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Tehran has rejected a request by the United States for Iran to cooperate against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

However, Washington has strongly opposed the involvement of Iran or Syria in an international coalition it has been building to fight the militants.

Khamenei's claim was issued in a statement on September 15 as he was leaving hospital after what doctors called successful prostate surgery.


With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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