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Australia to Fly Weapons to Iraq       08/31 11:43

   CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -- An Australian military aircraft will soon fly 
guns and ammunition to the northern Iraqi city of Irbil to help Kurds fight 
Islamic State militants as part of a U.S.-led multination mission, Australia's 
prime minister said on Sunday.

   Prime Minister Tony Abbott said his government would join the United States, 
Britain, Canada, France and Italy in delivering rocket-propelled grenades, 
mortars and assault rifle ammunition at the request of the U.S. and Iraqi 

   "While we understandably shrink from reaching out to these conflicts, the 
truth is that these conflicts reach out to us," Abbott told reporters.

   "None of us want to get involved in another Middle Eastern war, but it is 
important to do what reasonably can be done to avert potential genocide," he 

   Australia will use air force C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster planes 
based at al-Minhad Air Base outside Dubai to deliver weapons and ammunition 
provided by East European countries.

   Australia has said it has F/A-18 Hornets standing ready to join U.S. 
airstrikes in Iraq if requested by the U.S. and Iraqi governments.

   Abbott said Sunday the United States had not requested that Australia play a 
combat role. If such a request were made, Abbott said it would be considered if 
it fits the criteria of an achievable overall objective with a clear role for 
Australian forces. Safety risks must be considered and an overall humanitarian 
purpose must be in accordance with Australia's national interest, he said.

   Australian C-130s had previously made humanitarian airdrops including food 
and water to thousands of people stranded by fighting on Mount Sinjar in 
northern Iraq.

   Defense Force Chief Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin revealed that an 
Australian C-130 had on Sunday made a humanitarian airdrop of food, water and 
hygiene packs to the besieged Iraqi town of Amelie --- enough for 2,600 people 
for a day.

   Binskin said the weapons would not be air-dropped, but handed over to 
Kurdish peshmerga officials.

   The opposition Labor Party, which opposed Australia sending 2,000 troops to 
back U.S. and British forces in the 2003 Iraq invasion, has supported the 
latest Australian involvement in delivering weapons and munitions to the Kurds.

   Australia estimates 60 of its citizens are fighting for the Islamic State 
group and another al-Qaida offshoot, Jabhat al-Nursa, also known as the Nusra 
Front, in Iraq and Syria. Another 15 Australian fighters had been killed, 
including two young suicide bombers.

   The government warns that the Islamic State movement poses an unprecedented 
domestic terrorism threat. Australia has proposed tough new counterterrorism 
laws and announced 630 million Australian dollars ($590 million) in new 
spending on intelligence, law enforcement and border protection agencies over 
the next four years to enhance security, including a roll out of biometric 
screening at airports.

   Britain on Friday raised its terror threat level to severe, the 
second-highest level. But Australia announced on Saturday that its threat level 
remained at medium, a level that had not changed in more than a decade.

   Abbott did not believe Australia's increased military involvement in Iraq 
would necessarily increase the domestic terrorist threat.

   "There is a certain type of terrorist organization that hates us not because 
of what we do, but because of who we are and how we live," he said. "And who we 
are and how we live I hope will never change."


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