(Removes extraneous word "later" from 5th paragraph)
* Berlin, Rome say Islamic State poses international threat
* Will join other EU states in sending arms to Iraq's Kurds
* Move shows Berlin's more muscular security policy
By Sabine Siebold and Roberto Landucci
BERLIN/ROME Aug 20 Germany and Italy joined
Britain and France on Wednesday in saying they would arm Iraqi
Kurdish security forces fighting Islamic State militants in
northern Iraq, in close coordination with the Baghdad central
Islamic State, which posted a video on Tuesday purporting to
show the beheading of an captive American journalist
, poses a threat to the world and Europe cannot
simply stand by, Germany's defence and foreign ministers said.
Besides humanitarian aid and military equipment such as body
armour and helmets, "we can also imagine providing further
equipment, including weapons," Foreign Minister Frank-Walter
"In close agreement with our European and international
partners we will do this in such a way that it boosts the
peshmerga's [semi-autonomous Kurdish security forces] ability to
defend themselves," Steinmeier said. "We see the risks attached
to this, and we will therefore show a sense of proportion in the
nature of what and how much we deliver."
Sending arms into conflict zones is a major departure for
Germany, which has often shied away from direct involvement in
military conflicts since World War Two due to its Nazi past.
Berlin opposed the U.S.-led 2003 Iraq war although it took part
in the international military mission in Afghanistan.
Germany - the world's third largest arms exporter after the
United States and Russia - had previously promised to cut back
on arms deliveries to non-allied states particularly to the
Gulf. Deliveries to direct conflict zones was always ruled out.
Asked why Germany would make an exception for northern Iraq,
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said: "ISIS' advance
and what these terrorists are doing.. has a unique quality. We
cannot be indifferent in Europe and Germany - it also affects
our security interests... all the dangers arising from there and
the huge scale of human suffering informed this decision."
Steinmeier, who visited Iraq last Saturday, had made clear
he believes Germany has a moral obligation to provide military
support against Islamic State. According to a poll by Forsa
published on Wednesday however, 63 percent of Germans are
against supplying weapons to the Kurds.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi paid a one-day visit to
Iraq on Wednesday and his government said it was ready to
consider requests for supplies of personal weapons and
ammunition for self-defence.
Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti said Italy had earmarked
light automatic weapons and ammunition used by the Italian armed
forces, as well as arms made in the former Soviet Union and
seized at sea during the 1990s Balkan wars, to be sent to Iraq.
German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Berlin
would examine over the next week what equipment was available to
send and what the Kurdish security forces needed.
Germany does not have Soviet-manufactured weapons, but would
look into training Kurdish security forces in further equipment,
a defence ministry spokesman said.
Pinotti said Italy was prepared to join other countries in
providing transport for weapons supplies and said technical
preparations were already under way. The plan could be put into
action within days providing it had the support of the Italian
parliament and received approval from the Iraqi government and
clearance to fly over third countries, she said.
Efforts had to be coordinated to avoid duplication, she
added, and there had to be adequate oversight to ensure the
weapons went to official government forces and were only used
At the start of 2014 Steinmeier, German President Joachim
Gauck and von der Leyen all said Germany had to engage more
actively in international security, and that its size meant
Germany could not simply watch from the sidelines.
(Writing by Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Madeline Chambers and