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France, Britain push US to keep pressure on Islamic State

United Nations: France and Britain said Tuesday the US-led coalition battling the Islamic State group must press on and re-take Raqa as President Donald Trump mulled a new strategy to defeat the radical militants.

France, the second largest contributor to the 68-country coalition fighting in Syria and Iraq, considers the fight against IS the “number one priority,” said Ambassador Francois Delattre.

“We helped the Iraqi forces to retake Mosul. The battle to retake Raqa in Syria is also critical,” Delattre told reporters ahead of a Security Council meeting on the threat posed by IS.

Britain also said the coalition, set up by former president Barack Obama in 2014, must stay the course.

“The next step for us is to attack Daesh in Raqa and in Mosul, and to keep up the momentum that we have managed to maintain,” said British Deputy Ambassador Peter Wilson, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

Trump on Monday visited US Central Command and vowed to defeat “radical Islamic terrorism,” but he did not offer details about his strategy, currently under a 30-day review by the US military leadership.

– US vows ‘aggressive action’ –

During the closed-door council session, US Ambassador Nikki Haley said that “while ISIS is losing ground, the United States intends to maintain pressure on its safe havens, continue to restrict its finances, and work with our partners to take aggressive action wherever possible and adapt accordingly to defeat the group and its global threat,” a US mission official said.

Trump has reportedly shelved Obama’s plans for taking Raqa, the IS group’s de facto capital in Syria, and is considering cooperation with Russia, the Syrian regime’s ally.

France launched a wave of air strikes on Raqa in late 2015, in retaliation for the Paris attacks that left scores dead and shocked the world.

The Security Council met to discuss a new UN report showing that Islamic State jihadists were losing territory, their revenues were dropping and recruitment was waning.

“Daesh is on the backfoot, their finances have been crippled, many of their leaders have been killed and the flow of foreign fighters to Daesh is drying up,” said Wilson.

“The key thing is to keep the focus on Daesh — to attack Daesh rather than to attack innocent civilians,” he added.

UN political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman told the council that while IS was “on the defensive militarily in several regions”, it still appears to have sufficient funds to continue fighting.

A report sent to the council last week said that IS revenue from illicit oil sales, mainly from oil fields in Syria’s Deir Ezzor province, had dropped from a peak of $500 million in 2015 to $260 million last year.

Source: News18