UNITED NATIONS - The United States, which has kept Iran out of a global coalition to tackle Islamic State militants who have seized swaths of Iraq and Syria, now says Tehran has a role to play in accomplishing the task.

Chairing a special session of the UN Security Council, US Secretary of State John Kerry urged a comprehensive approach to defeating what he called a ‘cult masquerading as a religious movement.’  Kerry told the 15-member Council that Islamic State is nothing more than a terrorist group that must be defeated.

‘In the face of this sort of evil we have only one option: to confront it with a holistic, global campaign that is committed and capable of degrading and destroying this terrorist threat; to confront it with a holistic, global campaign that is committed and capable enough to ensure whether in Iraq, Syria or elsewhere, ISIL cannot find safe haven.’

‘The coalition required to eliminate ISIL is not only, oreven primarily, military in nature,’ Kerry said. ‘It must be comprehensive and include close collaboration across multiple lines of effort.’ ‘There is a role for nearly every country in the world to play, including Iran,’ he said.  Kerry’s statement marks a shift in tone on the US position toward involvement by Iran in a coordinated campaign against the radical Sunni insurgency. The US had excluded Iran from a multinational Sept. 15 conference in Paris on countering the threat posed by Islamic State. Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, said on Sept. 16 that ‘we’re open to talking to the Iranians about what’s happening in Iraq, but not coordinating with them, not sharing intelligence with them.’

Tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds flooded into Turkey on Saturday, fleeing an onslaught by the militant Islamic State group, as Kurdish and opposition officials called for international help.

The massive influx came as 49 Turks kidnapped by IS militants in Iraq in June were freed and returned to Turkey for emotional reunions with their families.

On Saturday, Turkey’s deputy prime minister Numan Kurtulmus said at least 60,000 Syrian Kurds had crossed into the country. “As of now, 60,000 Syrian Kurds have crossed the border and entered the Turkish soil from eight entrance points,” he said.

Iran hasn’t negotiated with the U.S. over Islamic State, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi told reporters in New York after addressing the Security Council. Araghchi called for consistency in dealing with the group’s hold across a swath of Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, Iraq told the 15-member Council that it must lead the fight against Islamic State militants within its borders, but encouraged a continued air campaign from international allies. Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said his country should shoulder the burden of ground combat. ‘We believe the main responsibility to fight the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations on our territory is our responsibility and the responsibility of the Iraqi armed forces and the Peshmerga forces and the National Guard, as well. 

The exodus was prompted by intense clashes between the Islamic State (IS) group and Kurdish fighters trying to hold off an assault on the town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds. It is the third largest Kurdish town in Syria and a strategic prize because it lies on the border with Turkey in northern Aleppo province.

Meanwhile, the Belgian authorities have prevented several attacks by militant fighters returning home from Syria and by sympathisers with the Islamic State extremist group, a report said Saturday.

The daily L’Echo cited unnamed sources as saying the planned attacks could have been similar to the one on the Jewish Museum in central Brussels in May which left four people dead. The suspect in that case, Frenchman Medhi Nemmouche, spent more than a year fighting with extremists in Syria and is now being held in Belgium on charges of “murder in a terrorist context”.

Up to 400 Belgian nationals are estimated to have gone to fight in Syria, with about 90 known to have returned home, L’Echo said.

However we require the support of friendly nations in the air campaign [against IS],’ he said. In his remarks, Kerry, the Secretary of State, expressed ‘deep outrage’’ at the killing, kidnapping, rape and torture of Iraqis and citizens of other countries by Islamic State. ‘The coalition required to eliminate ISIL [Islamic State] is not only, or even primarily, military in nature,’ Kerry said.

At the start of the  meeting, The United Nations Security Council on Friday unanimously condemned the Islamic State group and called for greater international support for the Iraqi government to counteract militants. Kerry’s comments came as French fighter jets hit an Islamic State military depot in northeastern Iraq, the first such airstrikes by French forces. The office of French President Francois Hollande said Rafale jets destroyed the depot and there would be more operations in the coming days.  Iraqi military officials said the airstrikes targeted positions near the town of Zumar.

On Thursday, Hollande said his country was ready to conduct airstrikes requested by Iraq once reconnaissance flights had identified targets.  He has said the military operation would be limited to Iraq and would not include any ground troops. US President Barack Obama praised the French announcement, saying that ‘France is a strong partner in our efforts against terrorism.’ The United States already has launched more than 170 airstrikes against IS targets, and has said it would hit targets in Syria if necessary.

Obama said Thursday that more than 40 countries, including Arab nations, have agreed to join the coalition. The French military action appeared to win qualified endorsement from Iraq’s top Shiite leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, according to news reports. In a Friday sermon, delivered by one of his aides, the elderly cleric said Iraq needed foreign help but shouldn’t become subservient to outside powers. ‘Even if Iraq is in need of help from its brothers and friends in fighting black terrorism, maintaining the sovereignty and independence of its decisions is of the highest importance,’’ Sistani’s spokesman Sheikh Abdul Mehdi Karbala’i said. Thirty-two Turkish truck drivers who were also seized in Mosul on June 6 were released a month later. 

SELS