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NATO Considering US Request for AWACS to Fight IS

FILE - A NATO AWACS plane is seen taking off from a NATO airbase in Geilenkirchen, Germany, March 12, 2014.

The NATO chief said Thursday the alliance is considering a U.S. request to provide AWACS surveillance planes to help in the fight against Islamic State extremists.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters “we are now looking into that request.” He said “different ways” to provide the support were under consideration but no decision had been made yet.

The trans-Atlantic alliance is not directly involved in the fight against Islamic State, although the United States and all other NATO member states belong to the coalition fighting IS in Iraq and Syria.

Since about 30 percent of the personnel aboard NATO AWACS planes are German, the issue has aroused particular interest in Germany. Deploying German service personnel in a combat zone would require approval from that country's parliament.

Stoltenberg said the AWACS question will be considered at a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels in early February, but declined to predict when a decision might be made. He assured German journalists that their country's concerns will be taken into account.

“We are going to take this decision as an alliance of 28,” Stoltenberg said - meaning all NATO members including Germany would have to approve it.