REUTERS - The United States on Monday unveiled what it called an information coalition with Muslim and Western nations to combat efforts by Islamic State, also known as ISIS, to recruit online and stoke sectarian hatred through a "cult of violence."
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U.S. officials told delegates from European and Arab countries at a meeting in Kuwait that this should complement parallel campaigns against the armed group on the battlefield and in the world of finance.
"There is a military coalition that is on the battlefield with Daesh (Islamic State) every day and from the very beginning the partners in the coalition ... felt that there should be an information coalition that complements the military coalition," U.S. Undersecretary of State for Public Affairs Richard Stengel
told a news conference after the talks.
Worried by the growing threat from Islamist militants after the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) captured large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria in June, Washington has been working with regional and world powers to fight the militants militarily, financially and politically.
ISIL has renamed itself Islamic State.
Campaigns by Islamic State on Twitter and other social media platforms have been slickly produced, incorporating up to the minute video and graphical techniques with battlefield footage to project an image of dynamism.
Representatives from Europe and the Middle East, including Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates attended the meeting.
A joint statement said the attendees agreed to "enhancing exchanges, training and other cooperative programs for government leaders and spokespersons, actively opposing the recruitment of foreign fighters and encouraging important religious and social leaders and the millions of young people who oppose violent extremism to raise their voices through traditional and social media."
Retired U.S. General John Allen, special envoy for building the coalition against Islamic State, told participating delegates that ISIL must be exposed "for the un-Islamic cult of violence it really is".
"I strongly encourage participants to set forth tangible work plans that will directly and rapidly counter ISIL's propaganda in cyberspace and the press," he said.
Asked if the meeting discussed ways to ensure governments in the Middle East would not use the coalition to crack down on freedom of expression, Stengel said: "All the coalition partners have pledged to respect freedom of expression."
"There is a continuum between security and privacy, between security and freedom and in order to battle against ISIL nobody wanted to restrict freedom of expression and freedom of speech."