France will join the US-led air strikes targeting extremists in Iraq as part of an expanding international effort to combat the Islamic State group, Iraq’s new prime minister has said.
Haider al-Abadi’s remarks came after talks with Francois Hollande, who was in Baghdad to bolster Iraq’s new government as it struggles to unite the nation amid the rampage by the Islamic State group.
“In order to confront Daesh, we need aerial support from our allies,” Mr al-Abadi said, referring to the group by its Arabic acronym. The French president promised me today that France will participate in this effort, hitting the positions of the terrorists in Iraq.”
Mr Al-Abadi spoke at a joint Press conference with Mr Hollande in Baghdad. Neither of the two leaders provided details about when the French could join the aerial campaign.
Mr Hollande said France had delivered four arms shipments and 60 metric tons of humanitarian equipment to Iraq.
His trip, and a conference that Paris is hosting on Monday over Iraq, are the first steps in a long-term effort against Islamic State militants who have captured large areas of land straddling the Syria-Iraq border with the goal of establishing a self-styled caliphate.
Earlier at a Press conference with Iraq’s president, Fouad Massoum, Mr Hollande said the Islamic State group was waging a war on “all people who do not share their vision or ideas”.
The aim of the Paris conference “is to coordinate the aid, the support, the actions to work for the unity of Iraq and against this terrorist group”, he added.
The US launched air strikes and humanitarian aid missions on August 8 to boost the efforts of waning Iraqi and Kurdish security forces.
The air strikes marked a significant shift in the US strategy in Iraq, where the military fully withdrew in late 2011, after nearly a decade of war.
French air strikes would likely start in coordination with the US but would not include ground troops, a French official said.
France is also prepared to invite Iran to an international conference aimed at coordinating actions to knock out the Islamic State extremists in Iraq – even though that runs counter to the US refusal to deal with Tehran.
The position reflects a shift in France’s policy toward Iran, a Shi’ite Muslim nation and neighbour of Iraq that joins regional states and the West in opposing the advance of the radicals.