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Osborne message on Iraq 'action'

The Government "reserves the right to take action" to stem any immediate humanitarian crisis on the ground in Iraq, George Osborne has said.

Amid speculation that Britain could soon join air strikes to deal with the growing threat from Islamic State (IS) militants, the Chancellor said "we haven't ruled things out, but let's be clear we're not at that stage today".

Mr Osborne underlined the "direct threat" to British security posed by IS but emphasised the Iraqi government's role in defeating the organisation.

He told BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show: "We absolutely need to defeat this Islamic terrorist organisation, it is a direct threat to the security of people living in Britain, as well as, of course, an enormous threat to stability in the Middle East.

"It needs to be defeated, there are already American air strikes, but they are in the context actually of a locally-led operation by the Iraqi people, by other countries in the neighbourhood, so this is very different from ten years or so ago with the Iraq war, where it was a Western invasion.

"This is an operation by the Iraqi government, which by the way needs to be more representative, it's an operation from people in the Middle East to destroy this threat, which we will assist in any way that we can and in a way that helps them with their cause."

He added: "On the question of air strikes we are not at that stage today, we haven't ruled things out, but let's be clear we're not at that stage today.

"We need to work out what we can do as a country to best help defeat this threat to our security and the threat to the security around the world.

"We are already supporting, for example, the Kurdish people in their struggle against these barbaric terrorists."

On the role of parliament, Mr Osborne said: "If there needs to be an immediate, emergency operation because there's an immediate crisis on the ground, a humanitarian crisis, and it's not possible to go to parliament, then of course the Government reserves the right to take action, that's been the position of previous governments.

"But any longer campaign, anything that requires a sustained effort, of course we would go to Parliament and indeed we would go to Parliament after taking any action if it had to be done in a matter of hours."

Mr Osborne branded the actions of IS "barbaric", adding: "I'm afraid if you can't deal with a threat like that you have to destroy it."

Quizzed about Britain's defence spending, the Chancellor said he would always prioritise national security.

He said: "I think we meet and continue to meet the 2% Nato commitment.

"Britain will always put its national security first, as Chancellor I will always put our national security first.

"I would argue that economic security is the flipside of the coin from national security."

He added: "We still run one of the largest defence budgets in the world, we've invested a huge amount in new equipment in the latest fighter jets today.

"We have actually one of the most modern and effective armies in the world, one of the most deployable armies."

The Nato summit in Wales wrapped up on Friday, with David Cameron urging a "comprehensive plan" to deal with the increasing threat from IS.

But there were some signs of tensions, with UK officials concerned that the US is not putting enough emphasis on involving regional powers and the French indicating they are not prepared to take part in military action in Syria.

US president Barack Obama insisted Nato members were "unanimous" in their commitment to stamp out to the "extremist nihilism" of IS - also known as ISIL and ISIS.

"We are going to achieve our goal. We are going to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL, the same way that we have gone after al-Qaida," he told a press conference.

At his own press conference, the Prime Minister said: "My argument is you need that mixture of intelligent politics, diplomatic pressure, long-term engagement in a comprehensive plan as well as the potential for military or other more aggressive action.

"This will take time and it will take resolve. We will proceed carefully and methodically, drawing together the partners we need, above all in the region, to implement a comprehensive plan."

Despite evidence that Tory MPs are being canvassed over whether they would support involvement in air strikes, Mr Cameron said Britain was not yet at the stage where it was ready to take offensive military action.

He is thought to want to wait at least until a more inclusive Iraqi government is formed - which could happen next week.

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