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Britain to boost anti-IS efforts

Britain is to boost financial assistance to Iraq amid pleas for significantly more international help in the battle against Islamic State (IS, or Isil) militants.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the contribution to a new United Nations fund - expected to be around £2 million - would go alongside a "significant contribution to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance efforts".

He promised the cash after a meeting of international allies in Paris at which Iraq's prime minister Haider al-Abadi said his country needed "the support of the world" but "we are not getting it" in pushing back the IS advance.

Increasing numbers of "well-trained, well-armed" foreign fighters had joined the jihadi force, which has captured the Iraqi city of Ramadi and the historic Syrian city of Palmyra in recent weeks, Mr al-Abadi warned.

The UK is to provide the cash for a new UN Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilisation (FFIS) that will push resources into areas as they are cleared of IS fighters.

Representatives from 22 countries involved in the global coalition formed to degrade and destroy the terror group were at the talks in the French capital, which Mr Hammond said had been "an opportunity to reaffirm our support for Iraqi forces, and assess what more we can do as a coalition".

"The global coalition is united and committed to defeating Isil," Mr Hammond said after the talks.

"Coalition intervention with airstrikes has halted Isil's precipitous advance. Action on the ground is gradually reducing the amount of territory they control. I am proud to say the UK has played a leading role, providing the second-biggest overall contribution to airstrikes against Isil in Iraq.

"We will continue to make a significant contribution to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance efforts. We must also stabilise areas liberated from Isil's control to ensure they are held. The UK will contribute to a new UN development programme fund to support stabilisation in Iraq."

He repeated claims that one block to ending the conflict was Syrian president Bashar Assad remaining in office.

"While Assad remains in power, the fighting will not end. Isil will continue to hold Syrian territory and the regime's brutality against its own people - including the use of barrel bombs and chlorine gas against civilians - will continue to be one of the greatest recruiting sergeants for Isil."

He said the Iraqis needed support in terms of logistics, air cover and training, but insisted that offering ground troops was not an option.

The meeting came after reports that the UK Government is preparing to expand its training mission - currently based in the relatively-safe Kurdish-held area of northern Iraq - into more dangerous parts of the country.

Britain already has more than 100 personnel in the Kurdish north where they have trained 1,200 peshmerga fighters in combat infantry skills including sharpshooting, first aid, counter-improvised explosive device (IED) operations and weapons maintenance.

Mr al-Abadi said the flow of foreign fighters across the border into Iraq to join IS has not slowed and the force is now mainly from outside Iraq.

"They have brought hundreds of new fighters, foreign fighters, well trained, well armed," Mr al-Abadi said.

"This is a transnational organisation. We need all the support of the world, the intelligence of the world and we are not getting it."

Measures being examined included efforts to cut off IS's funding and stem the flow of foreign fighters, efforts to undermine its ideology, and measures to stabilise areas recaptured from the terror group, which is also known as Isil.

It came in the week the UN warned humanitarian resources to help some eight million people in need of urgent help across Iraq were "running out".

Despite international attention on the rise of IS, the international community has stumped up less than 40% of the funding required for the 2014/15 appeal, it said, and "w ithout an immediate injection of new funds, humanitarian operations will be cut back or closed down".

Health, water and protection programmes have already been scaled back and halted.


From Belfast Telegraph