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UAE says in favour of US-led ground troops in Syria
by Staff Writers
Abu Dhabi (AFP) Feb 7, 2016

An international campaign against the Islamic State group in Syria should include a US-led ground intervention, said Sunday the United Arab Emirates' state minister for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash.

"Our position throughout is that a real campaign against Daesh (Arabic acronym for IS) has to include ground elements," Gargash told reporters in Abu Dhabi.

"We are not talking about thousands of troops but we are talking about troops on the ground that will lead the way," he said. "And of course, an American leadership in this effort is a prerequisite."

In November, Gargash said that the UAE, a member of the US-led coalition against IS, would "participate in any international effort demanding a ground intervention to fight terrorism".

Saudi Arabia on Thursday said it is ready to join any ground operation by the US-led coalition against IS in Syria.

The Saudi proposal was welcomed by the United States but it was ridiculed by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its key ally Iran.

Russia, another key Assad ally, accused Turkey -- a staunch backer of the opposition alongside Saudi Arabia and Qatar -- of preparing for "an armed invasion" of Syria. Ankara dismissed the claim.

The United States has for weeks been calling on partners in the 65-member coalition bombing the IS group in Iraq and Syria to contribute more.

US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, who last month chastised some countries for doing "nothing at all", is meeting next week in Brussels with defence officials from Saudi Arabia and other coalition members to outline the next steps in the anti-IS campaign.

Gargash said Sunday that his country has been "frustrated at the slow pace of confronting Daesh" -- which controls parts of Syria and Iraq.

"We have always said that there are two things lacking -- a genuine political process in Baghdad that... (would) encompass the Sunnis and a ground presence for the operations against Daesh."

An Iraqi tribal leader told AFP on Wednesday that Sunnis must be given a greater role in the political process of the war-torn country where the government is led by Shiites, in order to prevent the possible rise of organisations even more extreme than IS.

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