Saudi FM urges coalition to face IS challenge 'on the ground'

AFP , Thursday 5 Mar 2015

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal called Thursday on the US-led coalition conducting air strikes against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq to fight the jihadists on the ground.

The kingdom, part of the coalition, "stresses the need to provide the military means needed to face this challenge on the ground," Faisal said during a press conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Several Arab countries have joined the air campaign against IS.

President Barack Obama, anxious to avoid a drawn-out ground war, has backed an air campaign but ruled out deploying boots on the ground.

Meanwhile, Faisal warned of Iran's growing role in Iraq, accusing the Shiite-dominated Islamic republic of "taking over" its Arab neighbour through its aid in the fight against IS.

"Tikrit is a prime example of what we are worried about. Iran is taking over the country," Faisal said of the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's hometown.

The US military's top officer, General Martin Dempsey, said Tuesday that Iran's help in an Iraqi offensive to recapture Tikrit could be "a positive thing" providing it did not fuel added sectarianism.

Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia is wary of the ambitions of its arch rival across the Gulf.

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