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Middle East

France calls for inclusive Iraqi government to counter ISIS advance

© Ali Al Saadi, AFP file picture | France's Laurent Fabius (left) and Iraqi Foreign Minister

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-08-10

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius on Sunday urged Iraq’s bickering leaders to form an inclusive government in order to stem the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) jihadist insurgency.

“Iraq is in need of a wide unity government, and all Iraqis should feel that they are represented in this government, and all Iraqis should feel they are represented to take part in this battle against terrorism,” France’s top diplomat told a news conference with his Iraqi counterpart shortly after arriving in Baghdad Sunday morning.

He later travelled for further talks in the Kurdish regional capital, Arbil, where he told a press conference that France would not be joining the US in carrying out military action in Iraq.

"The Americans have intervened in a useful way while specifying – and they are right – that they have no intention of sending ground troops," Fabius said at a televised joint press conference with Massud Barzani, the president of Iraq's autonomous region of Kurdistan.

"As for France, our support is currently humanitarian... France is not currently planning a military-style intervention," he said.

ISIS has captured wide swaths of northern Iraq since June, executing non-Sunni Muslim captives, displacing tens of thousands of people and drawing the first US air strikes in the region since Washington withdrew troops in 2011.

After routing Kurdish forces last week, the militants are just a 30 minute drive from Arbil, the Iraqi Kurdish capital, which until now has been spared the sectarian bloodshed that has scarred other parts of Iraq for a decade.

The US carried out anew airstrikes on ISIS targets near Arbil on Sunday, aimed at protecting Kurdish peshmerga forces battling the militants.

“At approximately 2.15am EDT, US aircraft struck and destroyed an (ISIS) armed truck that was firing on Kurdish forces located in the approaches to Arbil,” US Central Command said. Four other strikes on armed trucks and a mortar position followed, it said.

Kurds ask for West for weapons

The possibility of an attack on Arbil has prompted foreigners working for oil companies to leave the region and Kurds to stock up on weapons at the arms bazaar.

Reporting from Arbil, journalist Adam Pletts told FRANCE 24 that news that the US had launched airstrikes on the militants had helped reinsure the city’s inhabitants.

“Two or three days ago there were some serious concerns,” he said.

However, speaking at the press conference with Fabius, Kurdish President Barzani asked the international community to provide the Kurds with weapons to bolster their battle against ISIS.

“We are not fighting a terrorist organisation, we are fighting a terrorist state,” he said.

In their latest sweep through the north, the Sunni insurgents routed Kurdish forces and seized a fifth oil field, several more villages and the biggest dam in Iraq, which could give them the ability to flood cities or cut off water and electricity supplies.

US President Barack Obama told a news conference on Saturday there was no quick fix for the crisis and urged Iraqi leaders to form an inclusive government that could ease sectarian tensions and unite Iraqis against the Islamic State.

Following the US example, Britain and France also pledged on Saturday to deliver humanitarian supplies to people trapped by the militant advance.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said London was especially concerned by the fate of Yazidis who are cornered in their ancient homeland of Sinjar in mountainous northern Iraq.

ISIS militants have surrounded 300 Yazidi families and told them to covert to Islam or face death - imposing a deadline which expires at noon on Sunday local time.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)

Date created : 2014-08-10

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