BEIRUT

Middle East

UK warns of humanitarian crisis in Iraq

Displaced Iraqis from the Yezidi community carry their children as they cross the Iraqi-Syrian border at the Fishkhabur crossing, in northern Iraq August 11, 2014. (AFP Photo/ahmad al-rubaye)

LONDON: Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond warned Monday that a humanitarian disaster of massive scale was brewing in northern Iraq, as he promised action to help the afflicted.

However, Hammond, who chaired a meeting of the government's emergency security committee, said he does not envisage a combat role for British troops in Iraq.

With media replete with stories of suffering and atrocities, Britain's government is being called to account. The Daily Mail newspaper featured a photograph of the prime minister while on vacation, walking barefoot down a beach under the headline: "Now UK must join bomb raids on fanatics, say MPs."

Other European leaders were also feeling the pressure. France called for an urgent meeting of European Union foreign ministers to consider Kurdish requests for arms and an aid airlift to northern Iraq.

The ambassadors of the EU's 28-member nations plan an emergency meeting on the security situation in Iraq, Gaza and Ukraine Tuesday.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton could call a meeting of higher-level officials if a majority of the ambassadors request it. However, no such decision is expected, an EU official said Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

British cargo planes carrying drinking water and tents have dropped some emergency supplies to the Yezidi community, a minority group besieged by Islamist militants in the Sinjar mountains in northern Iraq. But the efforts stalled in the past day because crew members were unable to find a place to drop supplies amid a crush of desperate people.

Hammond said the government had examined "options available to us to step up our humanitarian support, including obtaining better situational awareness of what's going on on the mountain, both to facilitate the air drops and to start planning how we are going to get people out."

 

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