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Iraq’s prime minister vowed Thursday to protect civilians displaced by the battle to oust Islamic State extremists from Mosul, as world diplomats met to make a long-term stabilization plan for the city. French President Francois Hollande urged the international community not to abandon Mosul once the multi-pronged military operation is over. Both spoke as diplomats from the U.S., Iraq and some 20 other countries gathered in Paris to come up with a plan to protect civilians, distribute aid and address questions about governing areas newly liberated from IS.
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The offensive for Mosul _ Iraq’s second-largest city and the biggest IS-held city _ is expected to take weeks, if not months. There are fears it could unleash sectarian tensions, and threaten civilians in a region ravaged by years of violence.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, speaking to the Paris conference by video transmission, said the government is “providing support for internally displaced people,” and opening humanitarian corridors amid the ongoing military operations.
” We will not allow any violations of human rights,” he said.
He stressed that the battle is led by Iraq and not a foreign invasion, though it has military support from a broad U.S.-led coalition. He also praised the diverse nature of today’s Iraqi forces, including Kurdish peshmerga, saying “we are closer to full unity, showing complete determination to vanquish terrorism.”
Hollande stressed the importance of respecting the human rights of the region’s diverse population, and protecting civilians trapped in Mosul and not confusing them with extremists. He said the battle must be handled carefully to give hope to those who have fled and feared IS.
” The battle for Mosul … will be long militarily but it will only succeed if we ensure its political future,” he said.
Hollande said the international community should ensure a “peaceful, organized” structure in Mosul once IS disappears.
” We should not look at Mosul as a place on the map, a military objective. We should look at Mosul as a way to prepare the Iraq of tomorrow,” he said. “If we are capable of showing this, we will not only have won the battle, we will have won the war.”
French authorities believe attacks on French soil in recent years have been plotted from IS strongholds in Syria and Iraq. French warplanes and artillery are involved in the multi-pronged battle for Mosul, as part of the U.S.-led military coalition backing the Iraqi campaign. Hollande said France has 4,000 people deployed in the region, on the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier and support forces on the ground near Qayyarah.
The talks Thursday come as Iraqi special forces charged into the Mosul battle with a pre-dawn advance on a nearby town. Attack helicopters fired on the militants and heavy gunfire echoed across the plains.
IS captured Mosul during a lightning advance across northern Iraq in 2014. It is the largest city controlled by the extremist group and its last major urban bastion in Iraq.