France calls for political response to Iraq crisis

Australia sends troops to protect its embassy in Baghdad

PARIS, France – The French government called for an urgent but also political response from Iraq to the offensive by militant ISIL forces, and said it was ready to contribute to reinforcing the democratic opposition in Syria.

The Iraq crisis, where ISIL forces have seized control of large swathes of the country north of Baghdad, is "a dramatic consequence of the situation in Syria", said the French presidency in a statement.

"The offensive carried out by the terrorist group known by the name Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) compromises the unity of Iraq and creates new threats for the stability and the security of the whole region," the statement said

The presidency issued the statement after a special meeting of France's defence council including President Francois Hollande, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

In Sydney, Australia’s Defence Minister spokeswoman David Johnston said that Australia has sent a small detachment of soldiers to protect its embassy in Baghdad in the face of an offensive by militant ISIL forces. The decision follows key ally the United States deploying 275 troops to help American personnel and protect its diplomatic compound in the Iraqi capital.

Johnston said that a small Australian Defence Force unit had been dispatched to bolster security arrangements at the embassy. No numbers were given. "The purpose of this element is purely to support contingency planning in the event that an evacuation of the embassy is required," she added.

Earlier this week, Australia evacuated some embassy staff with only an essential core remaining.

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