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Germany offers France recon jets, frigate for IS fight

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Berlin: Germany has offered France Tornado reconnaissance jets, a naval frigate, aerial refuelling and satellite images to back the fight against the Islamic State jihadist group.

“France was struck to the bone by the horrific attacks by the IS but we know that this inhumane rage can hit us or other societies at any time too,” said Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen yesterday, announcing the support.

The offer will have to be formally approved by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet and supported by parliament, where Merkel’s “grand coalition” has an overwhelming majority.

In Paris, the Elysee presidential palace said French leader Francois Hollande “warmly” thanked Germany for its support and predicted other European countries would follow suit.

The offer came a day after Merkel pledged in Paris to “very soon” decide how to help its closest EU ally battle the IS group in Syria, and after she met cabinet ministers in charge of security and the major parties’ parliamentary groups.

The government had agreed on “difficult but correct and necessary steps”, said von der Leyen at a press conference in the Reichstag building, flanked by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

She said Germany could send Tornado aircraft fitted with surveillance technology that can take high-resolution photos and infrared images, even at night and in bad weather, and transmit them in real time to ground stations.

A German frigate could help protect the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in the eastern Mediterranean, from which fighter jets are carrying out bombing runs, and the tanker aircraft could refuel them mid-air to extend their range, she said.

Steinmeier said the political process must continue to find a solution to the Syrian conflict, but added that “we also won’t get there without… A military confrontation against the IS, Al-Nusra and other terrorist groups in Syria”.