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Monday 22nd September 2014
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Syria 'Ready To Work With West In IS Battle'

Monday, 25th August 2014 16:06

Syria has said it is ready to cooperate with the international community in the battle against Islamic State (IS) militants.

The Sunni extremists have taken over large areas of the country as well as parts of northern Iraq in recent months, declaring a "caliphate" straddling both countries.

Western powers, including the US and UK, have been backing more moderate rebel fighters in the three-year civil war against forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al Assad.

But the US, which has been carrying out airstrikes against IS in Iraq, has signalled it could extend the battle against the extremists into Syrian territory.

Syrian foreign minister Walid al Moualem has now held open the possibility of working with countries, including the US, Britain and Saudi Arabia, which also supported the uprising against Mr Assad.

Mr al Moualem said: "Syria, geographically and operationally, is the centre of the international coalition to fight Islamic State. States must come to it if they are serious in combating terrorism."

Asked about the prospect of US aerial raids against IS inside Syria, Mr Moualem said any strikes would have to be coordinated with Damascus.

"Anything outside this is considered aggression," he told reporters.

And asked if Syria was ready to work with the US and Britain in fighting the group, he said: "They are welcome."

He also called for intelligence sharing with neighbouring states and suggested cooperation would be possible with Saudi Arabia.

Last week, the former head of the British Army said the West should consider negotiating with Mr Assad to tackle IS extremists.

Lord Dannatt told Sky News: "The old dictum that my enemy's enemy is my friend just might have some credence in this less than satisfactory and pretty extraordinary set of times that we are in."

But Britain has ruled out negotiating with Mr Assad and there has been no sign of any shift in US policy towards Syria, where the civil war has killed at least 191,000 people.

On Sunday, IS fighters captured the Tabqa air base in northeast Syria after days of fighting that cost more than 500 lives, according to a monitoring group.

"Islamic State has no borders and the faster we move against it, the more we diminish its danger," Mr Moualem said.

Meanwhile in Iraq, Kurdish peshmerga forces have retaken three villages in the Jalawla area northeast of Baghdad from jihadists and also held off two assaults on the Shia Turkmen-majority town of Tuz Khurmatu, officials said.

In Baghdad, a suicide bomber blew up his explosives-laden vest among Shia worshippers who were leaving a mosque after noon prayers, killing at least 12 people.