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UN set for vote aimed at weakening Iraq jihadists

The UN Security Council was set to adopt a resolution on Friday (Aug 15) aimed at weakening Islamists in Iraq and Syria with measures to choke off funding and the flow of foreign fighters.

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council was set to adopt a resolution on Friday (Aug 15) aimed at weakening Islamists in Iraq and Syria with measures to choke off funding and the flow of foreign fighters.

The British-drafted document would also place six Islamist leaders - from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other nations - on the Al-Qaeda sanctions list, which provides for a travel ban and assets freeze.

The final text was agreed by all 15 members of the council, including Russia, whose backing for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad partly stems from concerns that his downfall could lead to Islamists ruling Damascus. The measure represents the most wide-ranging response yet by the top United Nations body to the jihadists in Iraq and Syria, who now control large swaths of territory and have been accused of horrific atrocities.

The final text, seen by AFP, demands that Islamist State (IS) fighters in Iraq and Syria, rebels from the Al-Nusrah front in Syria and other Al-Qaeda-linked groups "disarm and disband with immediate effect."

It "calls on all member states to take national measures to suppress the flow of foreign terrorist fighters" to the extremist groups and threatens to slap sanctions on those involved in recruitment. It also warns governments and entities that trade with the jihadists, who now control oil fields and other potentially cash-generating infrastructure, "could constitute financial support" that may lead to sanctions.

The crisis in Iraq has prompted the United States to launch air strikes and air-drop food and water to help tens of thousands of civilians fleeing the jihadist advance in fear for their lives. France has agreed to send weapons to shore up Kurdish forces fighting the Islamists and Pope Francis has urged the UN to do everything it can to stop attacks against Christian and other religious minorities who have taken flight.

Describing the jihadists as a threat to international peace and security, the council has placed the resolution under chapter VII of the UN charter, which means the measures could be enforced by military force or economic sanctions.

'VIOLENT EXTREMIST IDEOLOGY

'In the resolution, the council expresses "its gravest concern" that IS and Al-Nusrah front fighters were inspired by "violent extremist ideology" and says their offensive had led to the displacement of millions of people and fomented sectarian tensions.

IS and Al-Nusrah fighters have been accused of targeting Christian and other religious minorities, as well as abducting women and girls and forcing boys into combat. The horrifying photo of a seven-year-old boy posing with the head of a Syrian soldier was posted last week on the Twitter account of his father, Khaled Sharrouf, an Australian who fled to Syria last year and is now an Islamic State fighter.

In the text, the council accuses the jihadists of a series of atrocities including targeting civilians in Syria, mass executions and extrajudicial killings of Iraqi soldiers, attacks on schools and rape. It warns that such attacks may constitute a crime against humanity.

The council has previously adopted statements condemning the IS offensive but the resolution makes the first attempt at a broader response, two months after IS fighters seized control of the main northern city of Mosul.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has renamed itself the Islamic State and proclaimed a caliphate extending from northern Syria to eastern Iraq.

The United Nations is also backing new Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi and his bid to form a broad-based government that officials hope will be able to confront the IS "terrorist army."