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Sunday, 28 September 2014


Australia is poised to join air strikes on Islamic State militants in Iraq in a matter of days, while the nation's attorneys-general and police ministers will meet next week to be briefed by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the federal police on recent counter-terrorism raids in Sydney and Brisbane. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said on Sunday the final hurdles to participation in Iraq could be cleared in a matter of days. The national security committee will meet and then the full cabinet will meet early this week to discuss military action. Ms Bishop said on Sunday she expected the legal framework for Australian strikes in Iraq to be agreed with Baghdad shortly. She also said Australia would consider any request to be involved in strikes on IS, also known as ISIL, in Syria but cautioned different considerations would apply. Labor justice spokesman David Feeney backed the government's involvement in Iraq but indicated the opposition opposed Australian military intervention in Syria, for now. A meeting of the Law, Crime and Community Safety Council later this week will discuss the counter-terrorism raids by state and federal police and the death of Melbourne man Numan Haider, who stabbed two police officers last week before being shot dead. ASIO's briefing will focus on the domestic spy agency's national security threat assessment while the AFP will focus on the raids. Justice Minister Michael Keenan told Fairfax Media the meeting was timely as the threat facing Australia was "significant and the threat is real". "It's more important now than ever before that police ministers and lawmakers are at the same table as we strengthen Australia's counter-terrorism measures," he said. "Information sharing is critical, community awareness is a priority, and the commitment from law enforcement leaders and dedication of state and federal officers to work together to keep Australians safe is paramount." In the Middle East, Australia has deployed eight FA-18 Super Hornet jets, early-warning and refuelling aircraft and 600 personnel. Of those 600 personnel, about 200 are said to be military advisers ready to work with Iraqi government forces in the fight with IS. The Foreign Minister said that before Australia acted in Iraq, "we need to have a legal framework ... we want to ensure that we can get the legal framework in place". "I think it would be a question of days [before agreement is reached]. That's why David Johnston was in Baghdad, to meet with the new Iraqi government. "And also to talk about the details of what would be required to support the Iraqi Defence Force because we would be going in at the invitation of and with the consent of the Iraqi government to support their defence forces to be able to defend their citizens and fight back against ISIL." Ms Bishop said strikes in Syria were a step further and that different considerations would apply, pointing to the fact that parts of Syria were ungoverned and that the regime of Bashar al-Assad was illegitimate in Australa's view. Mr Feeney said the government's response to the situation in Iraq and Syria was "appropriate and proportionate – this is a coalition and a cause that Australia should be in", he told Sky News on Sunday. "As long as Australian forces and operations are confined to Iraq then that is an appropriate place for us to be." But he warned that Australian strikes in Syria could be illegal under international law. Mr Feeney said Labor's support for military intervention in the Middle East was based on four factors: that the military campaign is legal under international law; that Australia is acting as part of a coalition, including key regional countries; that there is a clear military strategy; and that it is focused on preventing genocide to persecuted minorities. Read more:

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