France discusses military options for Iraq, Syria

AP , Thursday 19 Jun 2014

French President Francois Hollande attends a ceremony to award journalists with the Erik Izraelewicz prize for economic stories in Paris, June 18, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

France's president held an emergency meeting Thursday to discuss possible military options for Iraq and Syria, after recent advances by Islamic extremist fighters that have destabilized the region.

President Francois Hollande said in a statement afterward that France is "reinforcing cooperation with its international and European partners to bring a coordinated and effective response to the terrorist threat."

The statement didn't elaborate on what that response might be. A French diplomatic official said earlier Thursday that France has not been asked for military help in Iraq at this stage but was considering its options at Thursday's meeting, which was attended by several ministers, the chief of defense and the head of the French secret service.

The diplomatic official said that any international military action in Iraq should be part of a broader political plan that includes Sunnis and Kurds. He didn't say what such action might entail, but said it would need to be more than drone strikes. The official was not authorized to be publicly named speaking of sensitive military issues.

France famously opposed the U.S.-led intervention in Iraq a decade ago, but has pushed for international action in Syria, a former French protectorate. France's government argues that the international community's failure to act more decisively in Syria led to the latest unrest in Iraq.

"The war that (Syrian President Bashar Assad) is pursuing against his own people promotes the creation of a zone between Syria and Iraq that is open to terrorists," Hollande said in the statement.

He urged the international community to boost support for Syrian opposition forces fighting jihadist groups, and said France is ready to help. He didn't elaborate.

Hollande also reiterated concerns about waves of French radicals who have joined Islamic extremists fighting in Syria. French authorities are trying to stem the flow and stop them from staging attacks when they come home.

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