PARIS: The leaders of France and Iraq Monday urged swift action against Islamic State militants, with President Francois Hollande warning there was “no time to lose” as he opened an international conference to shore up an anti-jihadist coalition.
“The fight of the Iraqis against terrorism is our fight as well,” Hollande told representatives from around 30 countries and organizations, urging “clear, loyal and strong” global support for Iraq.
Iraqi President Fuad Masum also stressed the urgency of firm action, as the beheading of a third Western hostage in the run-up to the conference stepped up the pressure on the international community to destroy the Islamic State (IS) extremist group.
“They need to act quickly because if there is a delay, if this campaign and this support for Iraq is delayed, maybe Daesh will occupy other territories and their threat will be even bigger,” said Masum, using an alternative name for IS.
“We are still asking for regular aerial operations against terrorist sites. We have to pursue them wherever they are. We need to dry up their sources of finance,” added the Iraqi leader.
As if to underscore the urgency of the campaign, France announced just hours ahead of the conference that it was joining Britain in carrying out reconnaissance flights in support of the US air campaign against the jihadists.
“This very morning, the first reconnaissance flights will be carried out in agreement with the Iraqi and Emirati authorities,” Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told French troops, including pilots, at the Al-Dhafra base in the United Arab Emirates.
Shortly afterwards, two French Rafale fighter jets took off from the base, an Agence France-Presse correspondent reported.
During the conference, US Secretary of State John Kerry will seek to fine-tune the strategy of the US-led coalition against IS, following a marathon tour through the Middle East to drum up support.
He told CBS’s Face the Nation that “all bases were covered” in the coalition with some allies offering air strikes and others boots on the ground.
He stressed, however, that “we are not looking for that at this moment anyway.”