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France to join airstrikes against ISIS

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BELGIUM-BRUSSELS-EU SUMMITIraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Friday that French President Francois Hollande has promised to take part in the airstrikes against militants of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group.

“Our air force capabilities are limited… despite that we have qualified pilots who are doing a good job, but we still need air support from our friends, and the French president promised me to join the airstrikes against Daash (the first Arabic letters of the IS),” Abadi told reporters at a joint press conference with Hollande in Baghdad.

The Iraqi security forces, volunteers and the tribal fighters were capable of defeating the IS, and “all what we need is the air support”, Abadi said without giving further details about when such airstrikes would begin, Xinhua reported.

“Iraq is under attack by terrorists launched from the Syrian territories after the Daash organisation seized whole cities there (Syria) and has large launching pads to infiltrate to Iraq,” Abadi said.

“We demand the international community to intervene to strike Daash bases in Syria, which they use to attack Iraq,” Abadi added.

Hollande said that the IS militants were not only a threat to Iraq, they were an international threat which must be fought by all world states.

“This organisation includes militants from all over the world and when those return home, they would constitute a threat to the security and stability of their countries,” Hollande said.

He said that France has sent three arms shipments to Iraq and was sending the fourth, in addition to humanitarian aid.

Hollande also said that Paris would Monday host a conference on Iraq which would include a political framework to coordinate the international efforts in fighting terrorism and offering humanitarian aid and assistance in rebuilding the areas destroyed by terrorism.

Earlier in the day, Hollande paid an official visit to Iraq and met top Iraqi leaders including his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Masoum.

The two leaders held a press conference in which Hollande said his visit to Baghdad was an expression of solidarity with Iraq and that “we are cooperating with Iraq in security and political field to confront the common enemy”.

On his part, Masoum thanked Hollande for his efforts to hold an international conference to support Iraq in fighting terrorism and wished that “the relationship between Iraq and France will always be friendly”.

Later, Hollande met Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and discussed bilateral relations and the topics that would be covered by the planned conference.

Hollande is also expected to meet parliament Speaker Salim al-Jubouri as well as other Iraqi officials before he travels to Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan to meet Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani, according to media reports.

Iraq is witnessing a worsening security situation that began in June when armed Sunni insurgents, spearheaded by the IS, launched a surprise offensive that led to the debacle of Iraqi security forces and the fall of a large part of the country’s northern and western territories.