Egypt's military focus is at home, not on Islamic State: minister

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt’s foreign minister has suggested his country might not provide military assistance to the United States for its battle against the Islamic State militant group, saying the army was focused on the home front.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said last week he had won the backing of 10 Arab states, including Egypt, for a “coordinated military campaign” against the Islamic State, which has grabbed territory in Syria and Iraq.

However, Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri appeared to throw cold water on the possibility of active Egyptian participation.

“We did not discuss this and no one asked this of us. We always say that the mission of the Egyptian army is to protect the Egyptian people and the country’s borders,” he told the local Al-Akhbar newspaper.

Shukri said Egypt’s army was focused on fighting terrorism in areas such as the Sinai Peninsula and along Egypt’s border with Libya, where Muslim militant insurgents operate.

Egyptian security officials have said Islamic State has established contacts with Egypt’s most dangerous militant group -- Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis -- and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told Kerry at the weekend that any global coalition against terrorism should tackle an array of extremist groups.

Reporting by Michael Georgy; Editing by Crispian Balmer