• Hollande seeks anti-IS coalition

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    PARIS: French President Francois Hollande on Thursday will hold talks with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, as part of his diplomatic marathon to forge a broader coalition against Islamic State jihadists in the wake of the Paris attacks.

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    The French president will meet with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Paris in the morning, before heading to Moscow where he will hold talks with the Russian strongman.

    Hollande has been on a whirlwind tour seeking to build a coalition to crush IS in Iraq and Syria but has seen few concrete pledges so far, and a diplomatic spat between Russia and Turkey has further complicated his campaign.

    France invoked a clause requiring EU member states to provide military assistance after the November 13 attacks in Paris, when 130 people lost their lives in a wave of killings by suicide bombers and gunmen claimed by IS.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday pledged to stand beside France in its fight against the jihadist group after talks with Hollande, vowing to act “swiftly” to see how Germany can help in the fight against terrorism.

    The French and German leaders each laid a pink rose among the tributes of flowers and candles in Place de la Republique, the Paris square that has become a rallying point since the bloodshed.

    Hours earlier, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Germany would send 650 soldiers to Mali to provide some relief to French forces fighting jihadists there.

    Meanwhile in Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron will on Thursday set out the case for his country to extend its air strikes against IS from Iraq into Syria ahead of a vote by MPs next week.

    AFP

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