November 16, 2015 / 4:28 PM / in 2 years

Canada sticking to plan to withdraw jets from ISIS mission: PM

BELEK, Turkey (Reuters) - Canada will stick to a decision to withdraw its fighter jets from a mission against Islamic State militants despite last week’s Paris attacks, new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leaves at the conclusion of a news conference in Ottawa, Canada November 12, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

The group, also known as ISIL, claimed responsibility for shootings and bombings that killed 129 people. The violence prompted the United States, France, Britain and others to promise more strikes against the Islamist movement.

But Trudeau, who took power in an October election promising to pull out the six jets, said Canada could contribute more effectively in other ways and was considering how it could step up an existing program to train local troops in Iraq.

Trudeau was speaking to reporters at the end of a Group of 20 summit in Turkey. None of the other leaders present had asked him to rethink the jet withdrawal, he said.

“We made a clear commitment in the campaign to stop the bombing mission by Canadian jets ... and we have the mandate to do that,” he said.

Diplomats say the United States and Britain have expressed concern the Canadian withdrawal move could weaken the anti-ISIL coalition.

The six planes are still attacking targets in Iraq and Syria and Trudeau declined to say when the strikes would stop. The current mission runs out at the end of next March.

Canada also has around 70 military trainers working with Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq.

“Our capacity to offer training ... is something that not all countries have to offer and I know Canada can do more,” said Trudeau. “Canada is in no way withdrawing from its commitment to be part of the coalition against ISIL and be involved militarily.”

As part of the effort to help address the Middle East crisis, Trudeau is promising to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year.

Critics say it is impossible to properly screen every refugee before entering the country and suggest some might turn out to be security risks. If true this could alarm the United States, which shares a long undefended border with Canada.

Trudeau said he would discuss potential U.S. concerns with President Barack Obama on the sidelines of an Asian summit later this week in Manila.

Editing by David Dolan

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