US pushes for Western coalition against ISIS

Nato will also beef up forces in Eastern Europe to counter Russia

US President Barack Obama speaks at a news conference at the conclusion of the Nato Summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales Sept 5, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
US President Barack Obama speaks at a news conference at the conclusion of the Nato Summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales Sept 5, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

NEWPORT, Wales - The United States has urged Western allies at a Nato summit to unite in a coalition that could "destroy" the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Nato also approved wide-ranging plans yesterday to boost its defences in Eastern Europe, aiming to reassure allies nervous about Russia's intervention in Ukraine that the US-led alliance will shield them from any attack.

Nato announced the plan even as the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebels agreed to declare a ceasefire yesterday at talks in Minsk, the first such breakthrough in the five-month-old war. But Nato members remained wary of Russia's intentions in Ukraine.

At the summit, Britain and the United States chaired talks with defence and foreign ministers from eight other allies: Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Turkey.

On the threat posed by ISIS, also known as ISIL and simply the Islamic State, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement: "There is no time to waste in building a broad international coalition to degrade and, ultimately, to destroy the threat posed by ISIL."

The statement said the formation of a new Iraqi government would be critical. Some of the measures it listed include offering military support to the Iraqi government, stopping the flow of foreign jihadist fighters, taking action against ISIS funding, addressing the humanitarian crisis, and "de-legitimising" ISIS ideology.

"We will form a multinational task force to share more information about the flow of foreign fighters," the statement said, after an extremist speaking with a British accent was shown beheading two kidnapped American journalists and threatening a British hostage.

Mr Kerry said, in a transcript released by US officials of his comments at the meeting, that "we must be able to have a plan together by the time we come to UNGA (United Nations General Assembly)" later this month.

"They are not as organised as everybody thinks," he said, referring to ISIS. "And we have the technology, we have the know-how."

The Ukraine plan adopted at the summit includes creating a "spearhead" rapid reaction force and pre-positioning supplies and equipment in East European countries so they can be reinforced within days in a crisis.

The initiative is intended to provide assurances to former Soviet bloc states that have joined the US-led alliance in the past 15 years, especially Poland and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

British Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday said Britain could contribute 3,500 troops to a Nato rapid response force.

The European Union was set to agree on new economic sanctions against Russia yesterday, but could suspend them if Moscow withdraws its troops from Ukraine and observes a ceasefire, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

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