MOSCOW, September 12 (RIA Novosti) – French President Francois Hollande is visiting Iraq on Friday as his country is set to participate in the US-led coalition against Islamic State (IS) forces in Iraq.
The French leader, who landed in Baghdad on Friday morning, is due to meet with Iraq's new prime minister and president to hold negotiations on possible French airstrikes on IS targets, The Associated Press reported.
The airstrikes could begin very soon, in coordination with Washington, if the Iraqi government requests such an action, the report said. The visit is part of France's long-term effort to bolster the Iraqi government and weaken IS militants.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Wednesday that France would participate, if necessary, in "military air action in Iraq."
US President Barack Obama announced plans earlier this week to defeat the IS by extending the country's airstrikes from Iraq to Syria and bolstering Kurdish and Iraqi forces and Syria's moderate armed opposition.
The IS, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is a radical Sunni group that has been fighting the Syrian government since 2012. In June 2014, it started launching attacks in northern and western Iraq, declaring a caliphate on the territories under its control later that month.
The group is known for its brutal tactics and harsh interpretation of sharia law. Hundreds of thousands of people, mostly from ethnic and religious minorities, have fled the territories controlled by IS militants who are accused of multiple acts of execution and rape.