World

Trump team hosts anti- ISIS meeting

WASHINGTON: Foreign ministers from 68 countries met in Washington yesterday to agree on the next steps to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the first such gathering of the US-led military coalition since the election of President Donald Trump in November.

The meeting was hosted by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Mr Trump has vowed to make the fight against ISIS a priority and directed the Pentagon and other agencies in January to submit a plan for defeating the militant group.

The militants have been losing ground in both Iraq and Syria, with three separate forces, backed by the US, Turkey and Russia, advancing on the group's Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.

The meeting is the first of the international coalition since Iraqi government forces, backed by the US-led international coalition, retook several Iraqi cities from ISIS last year and liberated eastern Mosul.

While ISIS is overwhelmingly outnumbered by Iraqi forces, it has been using suicide car bombs and snipers to defend its remaining strongholds.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who met Mr Trump in Washington on Monday, said he had won assurances of more US support in the war.

A White House statement after the meeting said both leaders agreed that "terrorism cannot be defeated by military might alone", and they called for deepening commercial ties.

Discussions yesterday also focused on how to help Mosul rebuild and ways to tackle ISIS operations in Libya and elsewhere.

In Syria, the US-led coalition has been working with an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias. Its current focus is to encircle and ultimately recapture Raqqa.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is supported by Russia and Iran, has said he saw scope for cooperation with Mr Trump, although he has dismissed the US-backed military campaign against ISIS in Syria as "only a few raids". - REUTERS

ISISunited statesterrorism