France begins reconnaissance flights over Iraq

15th September 2014, Comments 0 comments

French planes carried out their first reconnaissance flights over Iraq on Monday in support of the US-led campaign against Islamic State jihadists.

An AFP correspondent saw two French Rafale fighter jets equipped with high-precision cameras take off from the Al-Dhafra base in the United Arab Emirates during a visit by French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Le Drian had earlier announced the "first reconnaissance flights" would take off from the base "in agreement with the Iraqi and Emirati authorities".

Le Drian's visit came as Paris hosted an international conference on a fightback against militants of the Islamic State, who have seized swathes of Iraq and neighbouring Syria.

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 IS targets.

Le Drian said his trip to the base "comes at a time of extreme seriousness" over the threat posed by IS.

"We must be ready to intervene," he told French troops at the base, located about 30 kilometres (20 miles) 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 later met Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, before heading to Egypt.

© 2014 AFP

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