PARIS — Senior figures from a US-led coalition are to meet in Paris on Monday to discuss how to defeat Islamic State jihadists, as the latest shocking beheading of a Western hostage strengthened their resolve.
Prime Minister David Cameron vowed on the eve of the conference that Britain will hunt down those responsible for the gruesome killing of hostage David Haines, describing them as the "embodiment of evil." Haines was the third Western hostage to be beheaded by the militants in less than a month. Islamic State (IS) released a video Saturday showing his killing and issued a death threat against another British captive, Alan Henning.
President Barack Obama offered US support for its "ally in grief," after two Americans were killed by the jihadists, while the UN Security Council condemned the "heinous and cowardly murder." Obama has set out a strategy to defeat IS that would include air strikes in Syria and expanded operations in Iraq, where US aircraft have carried out more than 160 strikes since early August.
The US leader also foresees training "moderate" Syrian rebels to take on IS and to reconstitute the Iraqi army, parts of which fled an IS blitzkrieg across northern and western Iraq.
– 'All bases are covered' –
Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been touring the Middle East to drum up support for the coalition before travelling to Paris for the talks, said "all bases are covered" regarding the US-led international coalition.
He told CBS's Face the Nation that there were allies willing to join the United States in air strikes. Some had offered to put troops on the ground, he said in the interview aired Sunday, adding: "But we are not looking for that at this moment anyway."
"Every single aspect of the president's strategy, and what is needed to be done in order to accomplish our goal, has been offered by one country or multiple countries, and all bases are covered," Kerry said.
Opposition forces would do the fighting on the ground in Syria, augmented by US and allied air support, he said. Washington would not coordinate air attacks with the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, but would ensure their forces do not come into conflict.
Representatives of 20 nations will take part in the Paris conference, including Iraqi President Fuad Masum and Kerry's Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, in talks aimed at defining the role each member will play in the fight to destroy IS.
Australia is among the latest to make a concrete commitment to the growing coalition, with Prime Minister Tony Abbott saying Canberra would deploy 600 troops to the United Arab Emirates, a regional Washington ally.
Ten Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, are among the countries backing the coalition.
Speaking in Paris, a US official said the number of countries signing on was "going up almost every hour," from Europe and the Middle East right across to Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.— AFP