The French president has called for swift international action against "Islamic State" militants. Francois Hollande is hosting a conference on tackling the threat posed by the Islamist militants and stabilizing Iraq.
Speaking at the start of the conference in Paris on Monday, French President Francois Hollande stressed the urgency of bringing together members of a US-led coalition to take coordinated action against the "Islamic State" (IS), whose fighters now control large swathes of territory in northern Iraq and Syria.
"By holding this conference the countries that are gathered here today are showing their solidarity with regard to Iraq," the French President said as he opened the meeting, which is being co-hosted by his Iraqi counterpart, Fuad Masum.
"It also shows their joint desire to protect themselves from terrorism," he added, alluding to fears in many European and other Western countries that some of their own citizens who have been radicalized and left to fight for the IS in Iraq and Syria cold return to carry out terror attacks at home.
Masum echoed Hollande's statement.
"Hope lies in a swift and radical decision against this new form of terrorism," said Masum, who summed up the Islamic State's ideology as: "You are with us or we kill you."
French reconnaissaince flights
Hollande has appeared to be one of the most enthusiastic supporters of US airstrikes on IS fighters in northern Iraq, saying during a trip to Baghdad last week that French fighter jets could also launch strikes if necessary.
Shortly before the conference began, French Defense Minster Jean-Yves Le Drian announced that French military aircraft would begin reconnaissance flights over Iraq this Monday.
British military jets are already doing so in support of the US effort, but Prime Minister David Cameron has so far ruled out having the Royal Air Force conduct strikes. However, it was not clear whether the beheading of a UK citizen over the weekend, which IS claims responsibility for, might affect his position.
The conference comes after US Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to several countries in the Middle East in an effort to drum up support for the coalition.
Germany's foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is representing Berlin at the Paris talks, called on Sunday for "internationally agreed action to effectively stop the flow of fighters and money."
On Friday, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere announced that the German government had banned all activity supporting IS. Last month, Germany agreed to supply Kurdish forces fighting the Islamists in northern Iraq with assault rifles, anti-tank weapons and armored vehicles. However, Germany has ruled out taking part in airstrikes.
Meanwhile, in the first trial of its kind, a 20-year-old German man has gone on trial in Frankfurt, accused of having traveled to Syria to fight for the Islamic State. He has been in custody since being arrested upon his return to Germany last December.
pfd/bw (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)