France offers Iraq help to counter violence
France on Monday offered weapons, training and intelligence cooperation to help Iraq combat worsening violence amid fears the country is on the verge of returning to all-out sectarian bloodshed.
“We are absolutely willing to help Iraq in its fight against terrorism, in terms of equipment, training, intelligence, and care for the wounded,” French Ambassador to Baghdad Denys Gauer said in a speech marking the visit of a French trade delegation to Iraq.
“This is an additional area in which we are totally open to cooperate with the Iraqi authorities, and to meet their needs.”
Asked after his speech, which he gave at the Rasheed Hotel in Baghdad's heavily-fortified Green Zone, if that help included the sale of weapons, Gauer responded: "Yes, of course."
The rise in violence, which has left more than 150 people dead in the past week alone, has fuelled fears Iraq is on the brink of falling back into the brutal Sunni-Shiite sectarian war that plagued it years ago.
In today's deadliest attack, a car bomb targeting a police station in Baghdad's northeastern outskirts killed four policemen, security and medical sources said, while a roadside bomb targeting Sahwa anti-Qaeda militiamen killed one fighter and wounded four others.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki used a recent trip to Washington to push for greater intelligence sharing and the timely delivery of new weapons systems in a bid to combat militants.
Turkey has also pledged to help, and France today offered weapons, training and intelligence cooperation.
But diplomats, analysts and human rights groups say the government is not doing enough to address the root causes of the unrest, particularly disquiet among minority Sunnis over alleged mistreatment at the hands of the Shiite-led authorities.