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Disasters

France ready to facilitate asylum for Iraq’s Christians

The French government has offered to aid Christians in Iraq who are being persecuted by Sunni militant group ISIS. The extremists have issued an ultimatum for them to convert or face harsh consequences, including death.

On Monday, the French government weighed in on the crisis gripping Iraq, where Muslim extremists have taken over several cities in the country's north since last month. Citing a recent ultimatum for Mosul's Christians to convert to Islam or face death, France said it would grant asylum to those affected by the new law.

"France is outraged by these abuses that it condemns with the utmost firmness," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in a joint statement on Monday.

The al Qaeda offshoot, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), launched a lightning offensive in June, taking control of a number of Iraqi cities.

Earlier this month, it began imposing stricter laws on local populations, targeting Christians in Mosul in particular. Those who did not convert, it said, would have to pay a religious tax, leave the city or face death. Thousands of Christians fled the city as a result.

Aid for now

The French government did not provide a timeline for an asylum program on Monday, nor did it indicate how many asylum seekers it would allow to enter French territory.

"We are providing aid to displaced people fleeing from the threats of Islamic state and who have sought refuge in Kurdistan," they said, adding that they were "in constant contact with local and national authorities to ensure everything is done to protect them."

Christians comprise just under one percent of Iraq's 32.6 million inhabitants.

The UN Security Council has also condemned the persecution of Iraq's minorities. Last week, it adopted a resolution which warned of the possibility of crimes against humanity being carried out by ISIS and said "those responsible must be held accountable."

kms/ipj (AFP, Reuters)

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