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Hollande in Iraq to review France’s war on ISIS

France is the second contributor to the US-led coalition that has carried out thousands of air strikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria

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French President Francois Hollande on Monday told French soldiers training Iraqi special forces that involvement on the ground against ISIS was key to preventing terror attacks at home.

"Taking action against terrorism here in Iraq is also preventing acts of terrorism on our own soil," he said at a base of Iraq's elite Counter-Terrorism Service near Baghdad. Hollande had already visited in 2014 and remains the most prominent head of state to come to Iraq since the launch two and half years ago of a US-led coalition against militants.

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The French president, who is travelling with Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, will also stop in the autonomous northern region of Kurdistan during his one-day visit. France is the second contributor to the US-led coalition that has carried out thousands of air strikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria and provided military equipment, training and advice to Iraqi forces.

Since it joined the United States in the coalition in September 2014, French aircraft have conducted 5,700 sorties, around 1,000 strikes and destroyed more than 1,700 targets, according to defense ministry figures. France has 14 Rafale fighter jets that are stationed in Jordan and the United Arab Emirates and taking part in coalition operations.

Russia urged to stop military action

France on Monday called on Russia to stop military action in Syria and respect a fragile ceasefire brokered by Moscow and Turkey seeking to end nearly six years of war. “We resolutely condemn everything Russia could do in Syria that would contribute to a continuation of fighting,” Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on France Inter radio.

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The truce deal, which was welcomed unanimously by the United Nations Security Council, has been repeatedly violated since it began, with warring sides trading the blame. Rebels on Saturday warned they would abandon the truce if the government side continued to violate it, asking the Russians, who support President Bashar al-Assad, to rein in army and militia attacks in the valley by 8:00 p.m.

“We hope talks between separate Syrian forces will continue so the ceasefire can hold,” Cazeneuve said. “We ask the Russians to stop taking part in military operations which are deadly operations,” he added, without specifying which actions in particular he was referring to.