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West mulls response to Islamic State threat

Western powers on Friday discussed the emerging threat from Islamist militants in Syria and Iraq, on the second day of a NATO summit dominated so far by the actions of their old foe Russia over Ukraine.

AFP| Updated: Sep 05, 2014, 14:48 PM IST

Newport: Western powers on Friday discussed the emerging threat from Islamist militants in Syria and Iraq, on the second day of a NATO summit dominated so far by the actions of their old foe Russia over Ukraine.

The US is trying to build up a "coalition of the willing" to take on jihadists and the talks brought together foreign ministers from 10 countries: Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Turkey and the United States.

The issue of how allies can act dominated the leaders` working dinner at Cardiff Castle in Wales on Thursday night.

"Everyone agreed there should be a global response," a French diplomatic source said.

The source said French President Francois Hollande told fellow leaders they should be "ready to tackle all aspects of the struggle against IS, including the military one but also working with neighbouring countries on the issue of foreign fighters."

The United States has conducted air strikes against Islamic State jihadists in northern Iraq, while Germany has agreed to arm the Kurdish forces battling the militants and Britain is actively considering a similar move.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Thursday that the international community had an obligation to stop the advance of IS and any request for help from the Iraqi government would be taken "seriously".

The threat posed by IS to the region and as a base for feared attacks on the West was laid bare this week with the release of a video showing the beheading of a second US journalist, and the threatened murder of a British hostage.

US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a newspaper editorial that they would not be "cowed" by the jihadists.

Cameron used the NATO dinner to urge allies not to pay ransoms for captives held by terror groups, amid reports that hostages from France and Italy have been released following the payment of large sums.

He said such payments were "deeply regrettable" and "utterly self-defeating", warning that the money was used for weapons, training and more threats.

In a fresh reminder of the brutality in Iraq, reports emerged of the kidnapping by IS of dozens of residents of a village in Kirkuk province just as the NATO summit was opening on Thursday at a luxury hotel resort in Newport.

In talks on the sidelines of the meeting, Obama and Cameron discussed the "broad strategy" on Iraq rather than specific action, and the need for a unifying government to emerge in Baghdad, British officials said.

Media reports suggest Cameron`s Conservative party is sounding out lawmakers on whether they would back military action.

"I`m certainly not ruling anything out and I will always act in the British national interest," Cameron said.

But he added later: "What it needs is a fully-formed strategy to squeeze this from every angle. That is what you are getting from this conference."The first day of the summit, which has been labelled the most critical since the end of the Cold War, was dominated by tensions with Russia over its actions in Ukraine.

The United States and the European Union were expected to announce a raft of fresh sanctions against Russia on Friday in response to a major escalation of Russian military support to the rebels in eastern Ukraine in recent days.

But implementation could be delayed pending ceasefire talks in Minsk on Friday.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the sanctions were likely to go ahead but could be lifted if hostilities were halted.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who is attending the NATO summit, voiced "careful optimism" about the talks, which will be attended by representatives from Ukraine, Russia, pro-Moscow rebels and the OSCE.

NATO leaders have agreed to set up new funds to help Ukraine`s military effort and treat wounded soldiers in a five-month conflict that has seen more than 2,600 people killed.

They are expected to approve plans to position troops and military equipment in Eastern Europe to reassure ex-Soviet bloc member states unnerved by Russia`s recent actions in Ukraine.

"While talking about peace, Russia has not made one single step to make peace possible," NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Thursday.

But Rasmussen left open the door to a possible Russia-backed peace plan saying: "If we are witnessing genuine efforts for a political solution, I would welcome it".