29 Sep 2014

PM seeks advice on support against IS

6:10 pm on 29 September 2014

Prime Minister John Key is seeking advice as to what military support New Zealand could offer to coalition forces targeting the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria.

But Mr Key told a news conference this afternoon that did not mean New Zealand was poised to join the fight.

About 40 countries, including several from the Middle East, have joined in the air strikes against the extremist group, which has taken over large areas of Iraq and Syria. Most of the western countries involved will operate only in Iraq.

Australia has warplanes on standby, while a contingent of special forces is ready to advise Iraq and Kurdish forces fighting the extremists.

Mr Key said he would be reluctant to extend New Zealand's involvement beyond providing humanitarian help.

He said no request had been made and he was simply seeking more advice from officials.

"We certainly don't have an air capability so any other commitment we might make would be a step we should take very cautiously and with our eyes open because history tells you that going into places like Iraq are fraught with difficulty and danger and as we know with Afghanistan it was a very long-term commitment."

British warplanes have carried out armed reconnaissance operations over Iraq.

British warplanes have carried out armed reconnaissance operations over Iraq. Photo: AFP / Crown Copyright / MOD 2014 / Neil Bryden

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Graphic: REUTERS

United States-led forces are solely using air power to attack IS positions in both Iraq and Syria.

But Mr Key said American generals were saying troops on the ground would be needed to defeat IS, even though US President Barack Obama has said he would not commit ground troops to the fight.

Mr Key had repeatedly said he would not send troops to Iraq and rejected a suggestion he had changed his mind.

"No I don't think that's the right way to describe it. What I'm saying to you is I'm doing what any Prime Minister would do and that is I've got to get advice on what the options available to us are and what is likely to be required," he said.

"When I've got all that I'll be able to come back and have an intelligent conversation with you but at the moment I can't do that."

He was it was a moot point because as caretaker Prime Minister he could not do anything.

Labour defence spokesperson Phil Goff said New Zealand should stay away from combat operations against IS.

"I don't see us having boots on the ground but I do see us having diplomatic and humanitarian support through the United Nations, most particularly if we're a member of the security council next month," he said.

Meanwhile, US-led forces have carried out more air strikes against IS.

The Pentagon said four small-scale oil refineries were hit inside Syria, near the Turkish border. It estimates the refineries generate as much as $US2 million a day in revenue for the militants.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in his strongest statement yet, has said his country cannot stay out of the fight and that ground forces might be required.

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