French foreign minister: France ready to participate in airstrikes against extremists in Iraq

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FILE - In this Saturday, July 26, 2014 file photo, French Foreign Ministry Laurent Fabius arrives to speak during a press conference after a meeting to press for a cease-fire in Gaza at Quai d'Orsay in Paris, France. Fabius said Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014 that his country is ready to take part in airstrikes against extremist fighters in Iraq if needed. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)


PARIS — France offered Wednesday to take part in airstrikes against extremist fighters in Iraq if needed, but insisted on a more careful tack for Syria.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called for international mobilization against militants from the Islamic State group, which he called "this transnational danger that could reach all the way to our soil."

The French gesture came before President Barack Obama is expected to outline Washington's plans for fighting Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.

France, which has pushed for action against militants in Iraq and Syria, has said it would join a U.S.-led coalition but has been cautious about what role it would play.

The French president and foreign minister are going to Iraq on Friday, and France is hosting an international conference Monday on Iraq.

"We will participate, if necessary, in military air action" in Iraq, Fabius said, according to a text provided by the French Foreign Ministry.

He stressed that Iraq had asked for help, and France is already sending arms to Kurdish authorities to fight the militants.

A decade ago France famously and vigorously opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq under Saddam Hussein, arguing for diplomacy. French officials say the militaristic stance on Iraq today is justified because the Iraqi state wants help, and Islamic State militants are not a government that can be negotiated with.

Hundreds of French radicals have joined the fighters in Syria and Iraq, and French authorities fear they will come home with violent skills and stage attacks at home.

Fabius insisted that France wouldn't send troops on the ground to Iraq, however, and would take a different tactic in Syria because President Bashar Assad "cannot be a partner."

He said France would continue to support Syrian opposition forces fighting both Assad and the extremists.

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