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Germany mulls 'specific strengths' to offer Iraq in fight against IS

On a visit to Iraq, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Berlin was examining ways to provide more support to Iraq's government. However, it remains unclear what was being considered.

Von der Leyen said on Monday that Germany would continue to provide assistance to forces opposed to "Islamic State," adding that new ways to help the country's central government were also being investigated.

The minister said she wanted to explore whether Germany had "specific strengths with which we can give targeted support to Iraq - the government in Baghdad."

The minister, who was

visiting Baghdad for the third time

- called on the government there to show unity. "It is also important that all forces in Iraq jointly lead the fight against IS," she warned after talks with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad. "It's in our joint interest to stop IS," she said.

Divisions in legislature

IS currently holds just under a third of Iraq, including the country's third largest city, Mosul, after sweeping across the much of the country in June last year.

Government forces and Kurdish fighters as well as Sunni and Shiite militias have since regained some of that territory, backed by US-led coalition airstrikes, although

progress has been limited.

However, the central government remains divided on sectarian lines.

Differing degrees of support

In terms of concrete support for Baghdad, von der Leyen mentioned only that 3,000 hazmat suits, to protect personnel in the event of a nuclear, biological or chemical attack, would be provided, as well as medical materials.

In the past, Germany has provided aid to the central government in the form of helmets, protective masks and binoculars. In contrast, it has provided anti-tank rockets and machine guns to

Kurdish peshmerga forces fighting IS in northern Iraq.

Official Iraqi government forces have lost large amounts of weapons to IS, particularly as the group made most of its gains. Iraqi forces fled, leaving hundreds of Humvee armored vehicles, at least 40 battle tanks, small arms and ammunition.

rc/jil (AFP, dpa)

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