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France launches recon missions in Iraq

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France launches recon missions in Iraq
Photo: Patrick Baz/AFP
10:10 CEST+02:00
The French air force is flying reconnaisance missions in Iraq as part of the US bombing campaign targeting ISIS militants who have been operating in the war-torn zone between Syria and Iraq.

France has joined Britain in carrying out reconnaissance flights in support of the US aircampaign against jihadists launched in Iraq early last month, the defence minister said on Monday.

"This very morning, the first reconnaissance flights will be carried out in agreement with the Iraqi and Emirati authorities," Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told French troops, including pilots, at the Al-Dhafra base in the
United Arab Emirates.

Shortly afterwards, two French Rafale fighter jets took off from the base, an AFP correspondent reported.

Le Drian's visit came as Paris prepared to host an international conference on a fightback against militants of the Islamic State, who have seized swathes of Iraq and neighbouring Syria.

The conference has been given added urgency by the beheading of a third Western hostage, British aid worker David Haines, on Saturday.

Britain had already been conducting extensive surveillance flights over Iraq in support of the US from its regional base in Cyprus, but has so far held back from carrying out strikes on IS targets.

Le Drian said his trip to the base "comes at a time of extreme seriousness" over the threat posed by IS.

"We must be ready to intervene," he told the French troops at the base, located about 30 kilometres (20 miles) southwest of UAE capital Abu Dhabi.

"France stands ready at a time that is decisive for its security -- because it is also France's security that is threatened by this... pseudo-Islamic State," Le Drian said.

Le Drian was to meet Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan later, before heading to Egypt.

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