The United States this week unveiled an outline plan to fight the
Islamist militants simultaneously in Iraq and Syria. It believes it
can forge a solid alliance despite hesitancy among some partners and
questions over the legality of action, notably in Syria where the
militant group has a power base.
"What is the threat?" the French leader said as he opened the
one-day meeting of officials from some 30 states in Paris.
"It is global so the response must be global ... Iraq's fight
against the terrorists is also our fight. We must commit ourselves
together - that is the purpose of this conference," said Hollande,
who last week traveled to Baghdad to meet members of Iraq's new
Iraqi President Fuad Masum said he hoped the Paris meeting would
bring a "quick response" to jihadists who have declared a caliphate
or Islamic state ruled under Sharia law in the heart of the Middle
"Islamic State's doctrine is either you support us or kill us. It
has committed massacres and genocidal crimes and ethnic
purification," he told delegates.
Foreign ministers from the main European states, the five permanent
members of the U.N. Security Council, Iraq’s neighbors and Gulf Arab
states Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE, gathered to discuss
political, security and humanitarian aspects of tackling Islamic
Iran, which is highly influential in its neighbor Iraq, is not
attending the conference.
"We wanted a consensus among countries over Iran's attendance, but
in the end it was more important to have certain Arab states than
Iran," a French diplomat said, signaling that Saudi Arabia had not
been keen on Tehran coming.
French officials say the coalition plan must go beyond military and
humanitarian action, arguing there must also be a political plan for
once Islamic State has been weakened in Iraq.
They argue that the 2003 US-led intervention in Iraq, in which Paris
did not participate, ultimately contributed to the current crisis
because it lacked a long-term vision for the different strands of
"NO FREE PASS"
France has said it is ready to join U.S. air strikes in Iraq but
says legal and military limitations make it more difficult in Syria,
where Islamic State's main powerbase lies.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said French aircraft would
begin reconnaissance flights over Iraq on Monday.
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"We told the Iraqis we were available and asked them for
authorization (to fly over Iraq)," Fabius told France Inter radio,
confirming that the first flights from a French base in Abu Dhabi
would begin on Monday.
"The cost of inaction would be to say to
these butchers 'go ahead, you have a free pass'. We won't accept
that," he said.
A French official confirmed two Rafale fighter jets and a refueling
aircraft had taken off on Monday for Iraq.
The idea of a coalition has been accepted in Western capitals and 10
Arab states, including regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Qatar. But
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday it was too early
to say what tasks individual partners would take.
U.S. officials said several Arab countries have offered to join the
United States in air strikes against Islamic State targets, but
declined to say which countries made the offers.
Norwegian daily VG quoted Foreign Minister Boerge Brende as saying
Oslo, which is at the Paris conference, was considering a military
presence in Iraq.
"First and foremost we have said that there would an additional
contribution to humanitarian work. But we are also considering
whether we will, separately to the humanitarian help, also
contribute with military capacity building," he said.
"This could be training of personnel, but it will depend on the
demand we get," he added.
(Writing by Mark John; editing by Janet McBride)
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