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European Union ponders arming Kurds in Iraq

Germany's foreign minister said he would travel to Baghdad to learn what supplies were needed.
By Ed Adamczyk   |   Aug. 15, 2014 at 11:28 AM

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BRUSSELS, Aug. 15 (UPI) -- Ministers of the European Union met to discuss arming Kurdish military troops in Iraq, following decisions by France and the United States to send armaments.

The Kurdish defense force, called the Peshmerga, is engaging Sunni extremists of the Islamic State in northern Iraq's Kurdistan, as an estimated 1.2 million people in the area of combat operations have become refugees.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, after participating in the emergency EU meeting in Brussels -- which were convened by France and attended by about 20 ministers -- said he would travel to Baghdad to meet with Iraq's new government and ascertain what the Kurdish forces need.

"We cannot just watch as people are slaughtered there," Steinmeier said. "If the current threat level persists, I can't rule out that we will have to deliver weapons."

The United States and France have begun shipments of arms, and limited U.S. airstrikes against IS targets were a part of a humanitarian effort to remove persecuted religious minorities from the Sinjar mountains where they sought refuge.

The United Kingdom, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands have all made public statements indicating willingness to further arm the Kurdish army. Several EU countries have joined the United States in airdrops of food, medicine and other essentials to isolated refugees this week.

In Dohuk province, the northernmost in Iraq and part of Iraqi Kurdistan, Gov. Fahrad Atrushi told the BBC the United States and the United Kingdom bear ethical responsibility to help Iraq, warning of genocide and saying, "We have hundreds of thousands (of refugees in northern Iraq). We're going to face an international humanitarian catastrophe because many of these kids and children will die."

The United Nations Security Council is expected to approve a resolution Friday calling for economic sanctions against any country found financing or supporting IS forces.

Follow @adamczyk_ed and @UPI on Twitter.
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