U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says seven European governments have agreed to join the United States in supplying weaponry to Kurdish forces battling Islamic State extremists in northern Iraq.
A Pentagon statement Tuesday said Britain, Canada, Albania and Croatia will join Denmark, Italy and France in providing “urgently needed” arms and equipment to the Kurds.
Islamic State jihadists overran large areas of northern and western Iraq in June. Earlier this month, they pushed Kurdish forces back toward their regional capital, Irbil.
Also Tuesday, Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Barzani, speaking in Irbil alongside the Iranian diplomat, said Iran is the first country to provide military aid to Kurdish fighters since the Islamic State offensive was launched.
Separately, high-level diplomats from Iran and Saudi Arabia — two regional powers separated by steep sectarian divides — met for talks that officials say included the rising threat posed by the Islamic State militancy. Iran’s deputy foreign minister described the talks as “positive and constructive.”
The visit to Jeddah by Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian was the first high-level meeting between the two countries since Iran elected Hassan Rouhani president last year. Rouhani has pledged to thaw Iran’s diplomatic ties with its Arab neighbors.
Earlier Tuesday in Baghdad, a car bomb explosion in a mainly Shi’ite neighborhood killed at least 10 people and wounded 31 others. The blast hit the New Baghdad area during the morning rush hour.
On Monday, a series of blasts in Iraq killed at least 20 people, including 11 at a Shi’ite mosque in the same neighborhood as Tuesday’s bombing.
Some information for this report comes from AP, AFP and Reuters.