September 24, 2014 / 1:13 PM / 5 years ago

Belgium set to send 6 F-16 jets to anti-Islamic State coalition

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium is set to offer six fighter jets to the U.S.-led coalition to combat Islamic State militants in Iraq, the country’s defense ministry said on Wednesday.

Defense Minister Pieter De Crem was due to outline Belgium’s proposed contribution to a parliamentary defense committee on Wednesday afternoon after the country received a formal request from the United States.

Any Belgian engagement will require the approval of parliament, although there appears to be a very broad majority in favor of action. It is set to debate and vote on the issue on Thursday or Friday.

Belgium would send six F-16 jets, along with 120 pilots and support staff. Belgium would also provide C-130 cargo planes to carry troops and material to Iraq.

A previous suggestion to send about 35 special force soldiers to advise local troops was not taken up by the United States.

The United States and Arab allies launched air strikes on Islamic State on Tuesday, carrying out 13 strikes in Syria close to the Iraqi border on Wednesday.

Washington is attempting to organize a coalition of Western and allied countries to counter Islamic State, which has seized large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, reaching up to the border with NATO member Turkey.

The Dutch government will also discuss contributing four F-16 fighter jets to the U.S.-led military operation against Islamic State on Wednesday, national news agency ANP reported.

Reporting By Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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