February 24, 2015 / 5:58 AM / 3 years ago

New Zealand to help train Iraq army fight IS

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand will send soldiers to help train Iraq’s armed forces fight Islamic State militants, but would not be involved in combat, the government said on Tuesday.

Military vehicles of the Iraqi security forces make their way on the outskirts of Baiji, north of Baghdad, December 8, 2014. REUTERS/Ahmed Saad

Prime Minister John Key said up to 143 personnel from the NZ Defence Force would join Australia “behind the wire” in training Iraqi forces.

“Sending our forces to Iraq is not an easy decision but it is the right decision,” Key said in a statement to New Zealand’s parliament. “We stand up for what’s right.”

Key said New Zealand had a duty to join other countries to assist Iraq to fight IS, and to support stability and the rule of law. The mission would be reviewed after nine months and would not last more than two years.

The deployment was opposed by most political parties in a debate that followed Key’s statement, including two minor parties that support the center government.

Last year Key said the risks posed to New Zealand from IS had increased, with 35 to 40 New Zealanders under surveillance because of their support for the militants.

New Zealand sent combat troops to Afghanistan, but declined to join the second Gulf war.

Gyles Beckford

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