France begins spy flights to back US Iraq air campaign
AL-DHAFRA, United Arab Emirates - Agence France-Presse
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian attends a defense congress on September 9, 2014 in the southwestern French city of Bordeaux. AFP PhotoFrance has joined Britain in carrying out reconnaissance flights in support of the US air campaign against jihadists launched in Iraq early last month, the defence minister said on Sept. 15.
"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.
Le Drian's visit to the base came as Paris prepared to host an international conference on a fightback against militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), 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 ISIL targets.
Le Drian said his trip to the base "comes at a time of extreme seriousness" over the threat posed by ISIL.
"We must be ready to intervene," he told the French troops at the base, located about 30 kilometres 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.