Baghdad: France will join the US-led airstrikes targeting extremists in Iraq as part of an expanding international effort to combat the Islamic State group, Iraq's new prime minister said after talks with the French president on Friday.
Prime Minister 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," 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."
Al-Abadi spoke at a joint press conference with Hollande in Baghdad. Neither of the two leaders provided details about when the French could join the aerial campaign.
Hollande added that France has delivered four arms shipments and 60 metric tons (66 tons) of humanitarian aid to Iraq.
Hollande's trip, and an Iraq conference that Paris is hosting on Monday, are the first steps in a long-term effort against Islamic State militants, who have captured large swaths of land straddling the Syria-Iraq border and declared a self-styled caliphate.
Earlier today, at a press conference with Iraq's President Fouad Massoum, Hollande said the Islamic State group is 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 (and) the actions to work for the unity of Iraq and against this terrorist group," he said.
The US began launching airstrikes and humanitarian aid missions on August 8 to boost the efforts of Iraqi and Kurdish security forces. The airstrikes 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 airstrikes would likely start in coordination with the United States but would not include ground troops, a senior French official said yesterday, speaking on condition of anonymity according to government policy.
Hollande's visit to Iraq is his first since the crisis escalated with the Islamic State group's blitz and the fall of Iraq's second-largest city Mosul in June.