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Britain considering arming, training Kurdish forces - PM Cameron

Source: Reuters - Thu, 4 Sep 2014 13:23 GMT
Author: Reuters
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(Adds comments on military action, changes dateline)

NEWPORT, Wales, Sept 4 (Reuters) - Britain said on Thursday it was considering arming Kurdish forces but Prime Minister David Cameron signalled he would not sanction U.K. airstrikes against Islamic State militants before a new Iraqi government is in place.

Britain has so far carried out aid drops and surveillance and transported military supplies to Kurdish regional forces allied with the Baghdad central government.

Other European countries, including Germany, France and Italy have already agreed to send Kurdish forces a quantity of light weapons to use against the militants who have swept into northern Iraq.

"We're prepared to do more and we're considering actively whether to give them arms ourselves and whether we can do more directly to train Kurdish militia - we're already playing a role there but we can do more," Cameron told ITV.

Cameron, hosting a two-day NATO summit in Wales, said he was not ruling anything out in the effort to "squeeze" the Islamic State (IS) "out of existence", but signalled Britain would not join US airstrikes before a new Iraqi government is in place.

Iraq's Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi said last week he was optimistic about forming a new government soon.

Abadi is tasked with forming a power-sharing administration that can ease tensions and counter IS militants who pose the biggest security threat to Iraq since a U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

"We musn't see this as something where you have a western intervention over the heads of neighbouring states," Cameron told the BBC.

"What is required is a strategy to help those on the ground and to have an Iraqi government there that can make a difference, Kurdish forces that can make a difference and then we ask what more we can do to help them. It needs to be that way round." (Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Stephen Addison)

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