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Germany prepared to send arms to Kurds in Iraq

Aug 20, 8:25 AM (ET)

By FRANK JORDANS

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BERLIN (AP) — Germany said Wednesday it is prepared to arm Kurdish fighters battling Sunni insurgents in northern Iraq.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier cited the "barbaric" actions of the Islamic State group that has taken control of large parts of Iraq in recent weeks, and the threat that their further advance could pose to the region and Europe.

"We are prepared, in principle, to provide weapons and ammunition within our means," Steinmeier told reporters in Berlin.

He said Germany would closely coordinate its efforts with France, Britain and Italy, and other European countries had expressed a willingess to deliver weapons to the Kurds.

France began shipping arms to Kurdish forces last week and has also supplied similar weapons to Western-backed Syrian opposition forces. The French government announced Wednesday it was getting a new shipment of humanitarian aid ready for Iraq as minorities under attack by Sunni militants issued a new appeal for help.

A German defense ministry spokesman said a decision on the exact type and amount of equipment Germany sends would be taken within a week.

Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq have submitted a "wish list" of weapons they need to the international community, said Jens Flossdorff. Training for Kurdish fighters was also being examined, he said.

Germany, France and Britain have already sent dozens of tons of humanitarian aid to help refugees in northern Iraq.

Wednesday's announcement follows intense domestic and international pressure for the German government to provide more than humanitarian assistance to those fighting the Islamic State group.

The offensive by IS radicals has left thousands dead and forced 1.5 million people from their homes.

Sending weapons would be a significant step for Germany, which traditionally has shied away from military involvement abroad because of its Nazi past.

Several hundred Islamic extremists from Germany have joined militant groups in Syria and Iraq, including the Islamic State. Authorities have expressed concern that some of the extremists might return to Germany to commit terror attacks.

"We have no indications of concrete attack plans," said Interior Ministry spokesman Tobias Plate.





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