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US to host meeting of anti-IS coalition March 22

AFP , Thursday 9 Mar 2017
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The United States on March 22 will host a major meeting of the 68 members of the coalition fighting the Islamic State group, the State Department said Thursday.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will chair the talks, which come as the allies are fighting the jihadists in the Iraqi city of Mosul and closing in on their Syrian "capital" Raqa.

On coming to office, US President Donald Trump ordered a review of the military strategy to destroy the Islamic State group, and the still-classified report was delivered to him last month.

Tillerson and his fellow foreign ministers will lead the political effort to prepare the ground for stabilizing Iraq and Syrian after the group's last military strongholds are crushed.

"Secretary Tillerson has been crystal clear that defeating ISIS is the State Department's top priority in the Middle East," acting spokesman Mark Toner told reporters on a conference call.

"Defeating ISIS is the start of a process to create...stability in Syria," he said, adding that the meeting will be the largest of the global coalition since its inauguration.

The ministers will update members on progress on the battlefield but also seek new ideas to fight the group's online propaganda, its spread beyond its heartland and recruitment of fighters.

On March 23, after the ministerial meeting, a coalition working group including military officers will meet to flesh out plans.

Russia, which has forces on the ground in Syria and has expressed a desire to work with US forces against the IS group but is not a member of the US-led coalition, will not be represented.

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