Australian PM hints at greater involvement in Iraq

Canberra, June 11 (IANS) Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Thursday hinted that the country is discussing its military commitment in Iraq with coalition partners.

“We are talking with our friends and partners about how the air strikes might be more effective and how the Iraqi forces might be better helped,” Abbott told the regional Countering Violent Extremism summit.

Abbott’s comments came after the US announced it was sending more troops to Iraq, although they will remain restricted to non-combat missions, ABC reported.

US president Barack Obama has approved the deployment of up to 450 additional American military personnel to train forces fighting Islamic State (IS) militants.

Australia currently has around 530 troops in Iraq.

Around 200 of them are special forces, while the remainder are regular troops stationed at Taji, north of Baghdad. Together with New Zealand soldiers, their role is on-base mission to train Iraqi army units.

Australia joined the international effort to defeat IS militants last September.

Abbott said the threat posed by the IS group, was global.

“IS is coming, if it can, for every person and for every government with a simple message: ‘Submit or die’.”

“The declaration of a caliphate, preposterous though it seems, is a brazen claim to universal dominion. You can’t negotiate with an entity like this, you can only fight it,” he added.

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