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Australian Troops Await Legal Clearances in Iraq

  • VOA News

FILE - Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is seen speaking to the media.

FILE - Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is seen speaking to the media.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the Iraqi government has not yet provided necessary legal protections for Australian troops sent to advise and assist Iraqi security forces in their battle against Islamic State militants.

Abbott said Wednesday the 200 special forces have not been able to enter Iraq, but that he expects an agreement to be reached soon.

He has ruled out any combat role for Australian ground troops. Last week, six Australian jets joined a U.S.-led coalition in carrying out airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling attention to the abduction, enslavement and rape of Iraqi minority women and girls by the militants, saying they are the latest examples of the group's "depravity and evil."

In a statement late Tuesday, Kerry said the abuses against Yazidi women and other minority groups include girls as young as 12, and that the militants claim their behavior is "somehow sanctioned by religion."

The United States first launched its airstrikes in Iraq in August in part to prevent the killing of thousands of Yazidis stranded on a northern mountain near the Syrian border.

Kerry said the Islamic State group's actions go against human dignity and called for those responsible to be held accountable.

Earlier Tuesday, President Barack Obama said at a meeting with foreign military chiefs that coalition airstrikes will continue in Iraq's Anbar province and in Kobani, Syria.

Islamic State militants have been advancing in both areas, trying to add to the territory under their control west of the Iraqi capital and in Syria's border area with Turkey.

Obama said the U.S.-led effort is not simply a military campaign, but a fight against a form of extremism "that has taken root in too many parts of the region." He said there is unity among the coalition for what will be a long-term effort.

"At this stage some 60 nations are contributing to this coalition, including more than 20 coalition members who are represented here today. Among them Iraq, Arab nations, Turkey, NATO allies, and partners from around the world, so this is an operation that involves the world against ISIL," said Obama.

The Pentagon said U.S. fighter jets and Saudi planes launched 21 attacks against Islamic State targets Monday and Tuesday, slowing its advancement toward seizing control of Kobani.

The U.S. says its airstrikes are aimed at keeping Islamic State from sending more fighters and supplies to Kobani. It said the fighting in Kobani "remains fluid" and that the insurgents are "attempting to gain ground," but that the Kurds are continuing to hold out.

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