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Tuesday, October 18, 2016, 22:24

France to hold global meeting on Mosul

By Agencies
France to hold global meeting on Mosul
Iraqi forces are deployed during an offensive to retake Mosul from Islamic State militants outside Mosul, Iraq, Oct 17, 2016. (Khalid Mohammed / AP)

KHAZER/PARIS -- France will host a ministerial-level meeting on Thursday to discuss the future of Mosul, the Islamic State's last Iraqi stronghold, after international coalition launched a major offensive to uproot the group, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced Tuesday.

Twenty countries including the United States, Turkey, Gulf states and European allies will take part in the meeting on Oct 20

"There is a need to anticipate, to prepare for the day after and the stabilization of Mosul after the military battle," Ayrault was quoted as saying by local media.

"We must win the war but also examine everything that can help to win peace. What will happen after? We must set up administration, and prepare stabilization," he added.

Twenty countries including the United States, Turkey, Gulf states and European allies will take part in the meeting on Oct 20.

Speaking to French diplomatic press, the French minister stressed that once IS is defeated, Iraqi authorities must develop a stabilization plan for Mosul and the region, protect civilians in the northern Iraqi city and provide humanitarian aid.

The French top diplomat warned that a defeat in Iraq would likely push militants to retreat to their Syrian stronghold of Reqqa.

"The coalition have to assume its responsibilities. After Mosul,  it's Raqqa and skipping that would be a serious mistake," Ayrault said. "We can't let the Islamic State reconstitute itself or strengthen to create an even more dangerous hub," he added.

Iraqi and Kurdish commanders said earlier Tuesday they have paused their advance on Mosul a day after the start of a massive operation to retake the Islamic State-held city, which is expected to take weeks, if not months.

The front lines to the east of Mosul were largely quiet, a day after Iraqi Kurdish forces advanced amid a barrage of US-led airstrikes and heavy artillery.

We have achieved our objectives

Col. Khathar Sheikhan, Kurdish forces

"We are just holding our positions," said Col. Khathar Sheikhan, of the Kurdish forces known as the peshmerga, which captured a handful of villages east of Mosul on Monday. "The Iraqi army will now advance past our arenas of control."

"We have achieved our objectives," he said.

But an Iraqi special forces commander said his troops have delayed an advance following a request from Kurdish forces for more time to achieve their goals. It was not immediately possible to reconcile the conflicting accounts.

Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil said his men had planned to move at dawn, but postponed the operation. He said Iraqi army and Kurdish commanders would meet later on Tuesday.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had announced the long-awaited offensive before dawn Monday, vowing to liberate the city from more than two years of extremist rule. Mosul is Iraq's second largest city and the IS group's last major urban bastion in the country.

The large and complex battle for Mosul is expected to last weeks or months. It will involve more than 25,000 troops, including the Iraqi army, the Kurdish peshmerga, Sunni tribal fighters and Shiite militias. The US military is providing air support and playing a supporting role on the ground.

A spokesman for the US-led coalition said the operation was proceeding as planned and that Iraqi forces were making "excellent progress."

READ MORE: Iraqi PM rejects Turkish claim on Mosul campaign

"There's no pause in efforts to liberate Mosul. Troops are on the move on various axes of advance toward the city," said Col. John Dorrian. "Some commanders have reached their objectives ahead of schedule after encountering light-to-moderate resistance."

By the end of the day Monday, Kurdish forces had retaken some 200 square kilometers (80 square miles), according to Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraq's largely autonomous Kurdish region.

Peshmerga commanders on the ground estimated they retook nine villages and pushed the front line with IS back eight kilometers (five miles). The front line east of Mosul is now some 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the city.

IS said it carried out 12 suicide attacks on Monday against the forces advancing on Mosul, including eight that targeted the peshmerga. The report carried by the IS-run Aamaq news agency said Iraqi forces had captured just three villages and that IS fighters had halted an advance from the south.

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