Middle East Updates / Canada Plans to Launch Air Strikes Against Islamic State in Iraq

Syrian army captures villages near Aleppo; British PM Cameron arrives in Afghanistan to meet unity gov't.

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Turkish Kurd protester run away from tear gas fired by riot police near the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province September 29, 2014.Credit: Reuters

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Latest updates:

5:41 P.M. Syria has warned Turkey that deploying troops inside its borders will be seen as an "aggression," calling on the international community to "put limits to the adventures" of the Turkish leadership.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry's statement, issued Friday, came a day after Turkey's parliament gave the government new powers to launch military incursions into Syria and Iraq.

Syria's Foreign Ministry said the Turkish decision is an "aggression against a founding member of the United Nations." (AP)

5:22 P.M. Canada plans to launch airstrikes against the Islamic State militant group in Iraq following a U.S. request.

A senior government official says Prime Minister Stephen Harper will announce details later Friday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about the plans.

The deployment still needs to be voted on in Parliament but Harper's Conservative government has the majority of seats so it is expected to pass. (AP)

3:14 P.M. The Syrian army has taken control of three villages north of Aleppo, state television said on Friday, in a campaign by forces loyal to President Bashar Assad that could encircle insurgents in the city.

State television said forces moved into al-Mudafah, Handarat and Sifat, including four intersections west of Sifat, killing "many terrorists and destroying dozens of cars." (Reuters)

2:39 P.M. A high-level UN nuclear watchdog team will visit Tehran for talks in coming days, Iran said on Friday, more than a month after it missed a deadline for addressing questions about its suspected atomic bomb research.

Diplomats told Reuters on Thursday that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was expected to make a new attempt soon to advance its long-running investigation into Iran's nuclear program and that a meeting might be held in the Iranian capital early next week.

Reza Najafi, Iran's ambassador to the Vienna-based UN agency, said the IAEA delegation would be led by the head of its division dealing with nuclear safeguards issues, Deputy Director General Tero Varjoranta. (Reuters) 

12:45 P.M. Syrian Kurdish fighters said Friday they had fought off Islamic State assaults on the besieged town of Kobane, after Turkey pledged to do "whatever is needed" to prevent it from falling.

"Our heroic fighters managed to repel at least three major attacks on east, west and southern sectors of Kobane by the terrorists," a spokesman for the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) said.

The spokesman, who declined to be quoted by name, added that fighting was continuing and that the jihadist group has been bombarding the city with mortar shells since the early hours of Friday morning.

The ongoing fighting came after Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu pledged late Thursday to help the Kurds in the besieged town on Syria's border with Turkey.
His comments, first broadcast on the A Haber channel late Thursday, came after parliament authorized the government to launch military action within Iraq and Syria to protect Turkey's security.

Turkey has yet to declare what role it would play in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State, and the country's defence minister has cautioned not to expect any immediate military activity following the vote in parliament.

"We wouldn't want Kobane to fall," Davutoglu said in response to a journalist's question, adding that Turkey has provided sanctuary for Kurds fleeing the assault.
"We'll do whatever is needed to prevent this from happening," he added, without specifying. (DPA)

11:50 A.M. British Prime Minister David Cameron made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Friday to meet with the new unity government, the first major Western leader to visit since an election crisis was resolved, easing threats of armed conflict.

Cameron's visit comes four days after new President Ashraf Ghani was sworn into office after months of political turmoil following a disputed election.

Cameron said he was looking forward to working in future with Ghani and with new Afghan chief executive Abdullah Abdullah.

"We all share a common goal, which is a more secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan," Cameron told a news conference with Ghani.

"We want an Afghanistan that is no longer a safe haven for terrorists or a threat to the security of either of our countries, and today we've discussed how together we can achieve those goals," he said.

The prolonged standoff over the June runoff vote between Ghani and rival Abdullah raised fears of new instability ahead of the withdrawal of most foreign troops. The crisis ended with a political deal that made Ghani president and saw Abdullah appointed to a chief executive's position with broad powers.

Behind the United States, Britain has been the second-largest contributor to the international military coalition that has been in Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S.-led intervention to topple the Taliban's radical Islamist regime in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

More than 450 British troops have been killed in Afghanistan during the subsequent war against the Taliban insurgency and its militant allies.

Most British troops will withdraw at the end of this year, as the coalition's combat mission ends and Afghanistan's newly trained security forces take over the fight against the Taliban. (Reuters)

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