US welcomes news France to join air strikes against Islamic militants in Iraq

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives before Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko addresses a joint session of the US Congress at the Capitol in Washington on September 18, 2014. He said on Thursday that the US welcomed an announcement by Fre
US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives before Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko addresses a joint session of the US Congress at the Capitol in Washington on September 18, 2014. He said on Thursday that the US welcomed an announcement by French President Francois Hollande that France would join US-led air strikes against Islamic militants in Iraq. -- PHOTO: AFP 

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States on Thursday welcomed an announcement by French President Francois Hollande that France would join US-led air strikes against Islamic militants in Iraq.

Secretary of State John Kerry was passed a note during a hearing with lawmakers and he read out the news, saying: "President Hollande has announced that he has authorised for France to provide air strikes in Iraq, in response to a request from the government of Iraq.

"And we obviously welcome that public announcement," Mr Kerry said, adding France was "one of the countries that we've been counting in on this."

In two days of testimony, Mr Kerry has been pressed by the Senate on Wednesday and by the House on Thursday to outline exactly what contribution each of the 50-plus countries in the coalition will make in the battle against the Islamic State group.

On Friday, the top US diplomat will chair a ministerial meeting of the UN Security Council in New York and he said the aim was partly "to build up the coalition even more and get more specific."

General John Allen, who has been tasked with overseeing the coalition-building efforts, will attend Friday's UN talks aiming to "marry all the needs" to what each country can contribute.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said France's commitment is "a significant contribution to the efforts of the growing international coalition to combat" Islamic militants.

"We look forward to coordinating closely with our French partners in the days to come," Mr Earnest told reporters.