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EU Ministers Give Nod To Arming Iraqi Kurds

Aid Groups Say Thousands Fleeing Violence In Northern Iraq
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WATCH: International organizations are distributing emergency aid to Iraqis, mainly minority Yazidis, who have fled violence in northern Iraq and are seeking assistance in Dohuk Province near the Syrian border. UNICEF representatives said that more than 25,000 people have left their homes over the past two or three days, and their numbers are continuing to rise. (Reuters)

European Union ministers meeting in Brussels have given their approval to EU states that wish to send weapons to beleaguered Kurdish forces in northern Iraq.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said after the talks on August 15 that the EU had found a "common position" that would allow "certain countries" in the EU to respond to requests for help from Kurdish Iraqi forces.

Steinmeier added, "It is not clear what equipment will be used and is necessary" but he underscored the need for rapid action. "In northern Iraq, in the Kurdish part, Yazidis and Christians are being persecuted and slaughtered."

France has already pledged weapons for Iraqi Kurds, and Britain has said it will "consider favorably" requests for arms.

Germany has pledged to look at supplying "nonlethal" equipment and its armed forces have already started sending aid to northern Iraq.

The first German plane carrying medicines, food, blankets, and other humanitarian aid set off on August 15 for Irbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq.

The Czech Foreign Ministry said on August 15 that it could start delivering weapons to Iraqi Kurds at the end of August.

Kurdish forces in northern Iraq have been battling militants from the Islamic State, a Sunni group that has been targeting non-Sunni groups as it staged a lightning offensive across large areas of western and northern Iraq in recent weeks.

As the ministers were meeting in Brussels there was news that Islamic State militants had destroyed a Shi'ite prayer hall in the Iraqi town of Jalalwa and shot dead the muezzin, the person who calls the faithful to prayers.

There have been reports of atrocities committed by Islamic State fighters against religious and ethnic minorities in northern Iraq, particularly Yazidis, Christians, Shi'ite Muslims, and Turkomans.

The European Commission announced this week that it would boost humanitarian aid to Iraq to 17 million euros ($22 million).

U.S. Air Strikes Hit Militants

Meanwhile, the U.S. military said its jets and drones carried out more air strikes in northern Iraq against Islamic State extremists.

U.S. officials said the strikes had destroyed several vehicles operated by the insurgents, who control large parts of northern Iraq and are battling against Kurdish forces.

The latest operations came after U.S. President Barack Obama said the air campaign had reached its original objectives of protecting U.S. personnel in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Irbil and breaking the militants' siege of Mount Sinjar.

The Sunni Islamist fighters have driven out waves of refugees from the minority Christian and Yazidi communities.

Elsewhere in Iraq, the governor of the western Anbar Province, Ahmad Khalaf al-Dulaimi, told the Reuters news agency that his request for U.S. personnel to support Iraqi security forces in their battle against Islamic State fighters was granted.

Withn reporting by AFP and Reuters
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