Iraq crisis: UK ‘would consider’ arming Kurds. 

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The UK would “favourably consider” any request for arms from the Kurds in their battle with extremists in Iraq, the BBC understands.

Kurdish forces are fighting militant group Islamic State (IS), which has seized large parts of northern Iraq.

France and the United states have already supplied arms.

Downing Street sources said the Kurds had not asked the UK for direct help but any request would be considered with an open mind.

The issue is set to be discussed on Friday at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, which UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond will attend.

Thousands of refugees have fled from IS, which is reportedly targeting Iraqi Christians and members of the Yazidi religious sect.

Air dropsThe UN has declared the situation in the country a “level three emergency”, its highest level of humanitarian crisis.

A UN Security Council meeting on Friday is expected to approve a resolution, which has been drafted by the UK and is aimed at putting more pressure on IS.

The resolution threatens sanctions against any country which finances the group, helps recruit foreign fighters, or supplies weapons.

The UK is already helping transport Soviet-era military supplies from Eastern Europe to the Kurdish forces.

The RAF has been making aid drops to people fleeing IS fighters, while the US has been carrying out airstrikes.

Humanitarian supplies ready to be airlifted to Iraq Humanitarian supplies have been airlifted to Iraq

Prime Minister David Cameron said it was “good news” that fewer refugees than thought remained on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq, after a US mission found thousands had managed to escape the mountainside.

He had previously said the UK would “play a role” in an international mission to rescue the stranded refugees.

A Downing Street statement released after a Cobra meeting on Thursday said the need for more air drops was being reviewed, but that options would be kept open in case of “further need”.

Chinook helicopters and Tornado jets would stay in the area, Downing Street said, adding that the UK would continue to work with the Kurdish forces to ensure they had the military supplies they needed.

Writing in The Guardian, former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Paddy Ashdown said the West urgently needed a strategy for dealing with the crisis, and that should include providing the Kurds with equipment, military training and the cover of air-strikes.

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.

On Thursday, International Development Secretary Justine Greening said work to get supplies to those displaced by the fighting had been “absolutely critical”.

Meanwhile, under-pressure Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has resigned on state TV to make way for Haider al-Abadi, who was asked by Iraq‘s president to form a government.

Map of IS advance

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