(Reuters) – The United States is asking European countries to supply arms and ammunition to Kurdish forces fighting jihadists of the Islamic State in Iraq, U.S. and European officials said, signaling a widening of the international role in the conflict.
The United States has requested the arms in telephone calls with several European countries, the U.S. officials said, seeking help for Peshmerga fighters of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region who are struggling against better-armed militants of the self-styled Islamic State.
Several European countries announced on Wednesday plans to send arms or ammunition: France will supply arms “in the coming hours” in response to a request from Iraq’s Kurdish leadership, President Francois Hollande’s office said. It did not say what kinds of weapons France would provide.
One U.S. official briefed on the Obama administration’s plans said the United States is coordinating efforts by various allies including Britain, France and Germany to acquire and deliver arms, initially ammunition for non-U.S. weapons such as the AK-47 assault rifles that are widely used by the Kurds.
The American diplomatic outreach underlines a preference in Washington to work within an international coalition to help the Kurds as they fend off the onslaught from the radical Sunni Islamists who have captured large areas of northwest Iraq.
The Czech government is looking for ways to supply weapons to the Kurds, possibly through private companies, Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek was quoted by local newspaper Hospodarske Noviny as saying on Wednesday.