Obama praises France's first air strike in Iraq
US President Barack Obama on Thursday praised France for its decision to join American forces in conducting air strikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq.
"Today the United States continues to build a broad international coalition to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL," Obama said at the White House.
"As part of the air campaign France will join in strikes against ISIL in Iraq," he added, confirming an announcement made earlier in the day by his French counterpart Francois Hollande.
"As one of our oldest and closest allies, France is a strong partner in our efforts against terrorism and we are pleased that French and American service members will once again work together on behalf of our shared security and our shared values."
The United States is marshaling a coalition of several dozen countries -- western allies as well as partners in the Middle East -- to confront the rising power of the Islamic State jihadist group.
But not all of Washington's partners are prepared to take direct military action in the cause, some limiting themselves to providing humanitarian aid or military equipment for local Iraqi forces.
France, however, will now take part in the aerial campaign launched by Obama on August 8, in which US jets and drones have now carried out more than 176 raids, mainly in the north of the country.
Obama has also authorized the US military to conduct raids in Syria, where the IS group controls a big patch of territory, but none have yet been carried out and allies, including France, have not said they would take part.
"I decided to respond to the request of the Iraqi authorities to offer aerial support," Hollande told reporters earlier Thursday. "As soon as we have identified targets, we will act... within a short time frame."
France has already conducted reconnaissance flights over Iraq that started Monday and dispatched weapons to the Kurdish forces fighting the IS group.
© 2014 AFP