Iraq crisis: UK says situation ‘still desperate’ 

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The plight of Iraqis trapped on Mount Sinjar by Islamist fighters remains “desperate” but a rescue is now “less likely”, the UK has said.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said the latest US inspection found fewer Yazidi refugees than expected and those remaining were in a better condition than feared.

She said it showed US air strikes were working but added Britain would support a rescue mission if necessary.

UK troops delivered more aid overnight.

It was the fourth air drop by the RAF in the past week.

‘Absolutely critical’

Prime Minister David Cameron is visiting a distribution centre in Wiltshire to see the operation behind humanitarian aid being sent to Iraq before chairing a meeting of the government’s emergency Cobra committee to discuss the situation.

He said on Wednesday the UK would “play a role” in any international rescue effort.

David Cameron said plans to provide aid in Iraq must be “flexible”

The US estimates fewer than 10,000 people are fleeing militant group Islamic State (IS), which has seized large parts of northern Iraq in recent months, according to the international development secretary.

Ms Greening told BBC Breakfast that work to get supplies to those displaced by the fighting had been “absolutely critical”.

“It’s been a very uncertain picture. We’ve seen some people leaving the mountain while other people have been forced on to it,” she said.

“Clearly we will need to continue our work to get all of those supplies to people who are still there over the coming days.

“We will make sure we do that.”

Since Saturday, the UK has delivered nearly 10,000 reusable water purification containers each containing 500 litres of clean water as well as shelter kits and solar lamps.

An Iraqi girl collects water from a water container Refugee camps near the IraqTurkey border are housing some of those fleeing IS militants

This is paid for by the government’s £8m assistance fund, set up to help those displaced in Iraq.

On Wednesday, the UN declared the situation in the country a “level three emergency”, its highest level of humanitarian crisis.

Jihadists from IS are reportedly targeting Iraqi Christians and members of the Yazidi religious sect.

About 35,000 people have escaped from the mountains into Syria and on to the Kurdistan region of Iraq in the past three days, with the UN warning they need “life-saving assistance”.

Some 700,000 Yazidis are believed to have been displaced.

Chaos

The US air drops have focused on delivering food and water to those trapped.

American fighter jets have also continued to conduct air strikes on IS targets in Iraq‘s north.

Meanwhile France has said it will arm Iraq‘s Kurds, who are already getting US military aid to fight the Islamist militants.

Map of IS advance

Iraq has been thrown into chaos by the advance of IS, which overran Iraq‘s second largest city, Mosul, in June.

Its fighters had taken the central city of Falluja and parts of nearby Ramadi in December 2013.

On 29 June, IS announced it had created a caliphate, or Islamic state, stretching from Aleppo in Syria to the province of Diyala in Iraq.

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