The French Government has agreed to carry out airstrikes on the Islamic State (IS) militants in northern Iraq.

Addressing a press conference, French President Francois Hollande said: "I decided to respond to the request of the Iraqi authorities to offer aerial support.

"It will be air support to protect Iraqi soldiers and Kurdish peshmerga forces to reduce and weaken this terrorist group.

"Our goal is to pursue peace and security in Iraq by weakening the terrorists.

"We won’t go beyond that; there will be no troops on the ground and we will intervene only in Iraq."

Answering to questions as to when airstrikes would begin, the French President said: "As soon as we have identified targets; that means in a short time frame."

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France started reconnaissance flights over Iraq early this week and is also supplying weapons to the Kurdish forces fighting the terrorist group in northern parts of the country.

The White House press secretary Josh Earnest welcomed France’s decision, saying: "That is a significant contribution to the efforts of the growing international coalition to combat IS, and we look forward to coordinating closely with our French partners in the days to come."

"I decided to respond to the request of the Iraqi authorities to offer aerial support."

Last week, US President Barack Obama announced plans to create an international coalition to confront the group, which currently holds dozens of cities and towns in Iraq and Syria.

Meanwhile, reports have emerged that the Netherlands is considering deployment of an unspecified number of F-16 fighter jets to conduct airstrikes against IS targets in Iraq and possibly Syria.

Netherlands Defence Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert was quoted by Trouw as saying: "We don’t rule out anything, but there’s no question of taking a decision yet.

"The military planning is underway and that takes time."

The Dutch contribution would be discussed during today’s Cabinet meeting and should also be approved by a majority in the Parliament.

In the latest development, more than 40 IS militants were reportedly killed by US airstrikes near the city of Mosul, which brings the total number of US airstrikes in Iraq to 176.

The US Central Command said in a statement: "One airstrike near an IS training camp south-east of Mosul destroyed an IS armed vehicle, two IS-occupied buildings and a large IS ground unit.

"Another airstrike south-east of Baghdad damaged an IS ammunition stockpile."

Defence Technology