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Britain not sending troops to Iraq

London - British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Wednesday there was “no question” of British troops being sent back to Iraq to help battle Islamic militants who have seized control of key cities.

Hague said while the situation was of great concern, the government was “not countenancing at this stage any British military involvement”

Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) patrol on a vehicle in Tikrit, which the group overran. REUTERS/Stringer. Credit: REUTERS

He said he believed Iraq had sufficient forces to counter the threat.

A US official said the United States “stands ready” to help Iraq, but made no mention of sending troops.

Having overrun Iraq's second city of Mosul in a spectacular assault this week, militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) seized the city of Tikrit on Wednesday.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has appealed for international assistance.

Hague urged Iraq's political leaders to find a rapid solution to the deadlock over forming a new coalition government, and said the insurgency proved the war in Syria was “infecting” the region.

British troops were the second largest force behind the United States in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

But Hague dismissed suggestions that the invasion to topple Saddam Hussein had left Iraq vulnerable to such insurgencies.

“We are very worried about this,” he told ITV News.

“It's very important that the civilian population are protected as well as possible, that people who are fleeing the area are looked after by the Iraqi authorities and people in neighbouring countries as well.

“It underlines the importance of trying to resolve the Syria crisis which we've been working on for a long time, because that is infecting neighbouring countries, including destabilising Iraq.

“And it shows how important it is for the Iraqi leaders to form a new government quickly.

“They've just had an election.

“And to have the political unity and consensus to deal with this.”

Asked if Britain would offer military assistance to Baghdad, he said: “It's for Iraq primarily to respond to this.

“Iraq has considerable resources.

“It has its armed forces.

“We're not countenancing at this stage any British military involvement.”

Asked if British troops could return, five years after British combat operations ceased in Iraq, he said: “There is no question of that.

“We left Iraq in the hands of elected Iraqi leaders with armed forces, with their own security forces, so it is primarily for them to deal with.

“We will do everything we can to relieve humanitarian suffering and of course to resolve the long-running crisis in Syria.”

Sapa-AFP

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