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Sarkozy urges Arab powers to send troops to Syria

AFP | Nicolas Sarkozy speaking in Abu Dhabi, UAE on Wednesday

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday called on Arab governments to deploy troops to Syria to fight the Islamic State (IS) group, describing the conflict against extremism as a "third world war".


Speaking at a policy center in the United Arab Emirates, Sarkozy said the November 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people, claimed by the IS group, showed that "there can be no such thing as a compromise between us and them.”

"I would describe this as a third world war," he said, adding there could be nothing short of a "total annihilation of extremists, jihadists and terrorists."

"We have to wage a total war and wage it now," Sarkozy said. "We need to wipe these savages from the face of the earth."

Sarkozy spoke in front of a packed audience in the United Arab Emirates, which has helped lead a crackdown against opposition Islamists throughout the region, is part of the Saudi-led war in Yemen against Iranian-allied Shiite rebels, and is also a member of the US-led coalition striking IS group fighters in Syria and Iraq.

France has been one of the most active members of the American-led coalition striking the IS group where it holds territory in both Iraq and Syria.

Boots on the ground

But Sarkozy insisted that airstrikes against extremist groups in Syria and Iraq are not enough.

"We need to strike from the air, but also occupy on the ground," he said and urged "Arab powers" to stage a ground intervention.

“Troops on the ground are necessary and they can only be Arab,” Sarkozy told his audience. “This is first and foremost your war … and it is a war between civilization and barbarity.”

He also lauded France's close business, military and strategic ties with Gulf Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Sarkozy, who staunchly opposes Syrian President Bashar Assad remaining in power and who rallied NATO into aiding the overthrow of Libya's longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi, said conflicts in the Middle East are "very much" Europe's concern.

"There will be no peace north of the Mediterranean if there is no peace south of the Mediterranean," said the former French president, who has also been known for his tough anti-immigration stance.

Sarkozy's tough talk comes as he sets his sights on another bid for the presidency in 2017. Sarkozy, who leads the conservative opposition party Les Républicans (formerly UMP) and was France's president from 2007-2012, is considered among the favourites to win the party's primary in November, his main rival being former Prime Minister Alain Juppé.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

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