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Canada stops short of offering new humanitarian aid to Iraq

Displaced Iraqi Christians settle at St. Joseph Church in Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014.

Khalid Mohammed/AP

Foreign Minister John Baird is stopping short of pledging new military or humanitarian aid to Iraq, saying Canada will monitor the situation in the country as the United States began air strikes and supply drops to help civilians fleeing Sunni extremists.

In a statement Friday, Mr. Baird said Canada's ambassador to Iraq, presently based in Jordan, is "working to determine how best to support the Iraqi people." In the meantime, the federal government says it has not received a request for military help.

Mr. Baird's office also said Canada "supports all efforts, including United States supply drops and airstrikes, to protect civilians." But his office did not offer any details of whether, or how, Canada would materially support the efforts. Asked for details of what that support might entail, a spokesman for Mr. Baird, Adam Hodge, said Canada provides Iraq "considerable aid" and that Canada will "continue to monitor the situation with our allies."

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Canada listed the Islamic State extremist group as a terrorist group in 2012.

Canada has provided $6.8-million in humanitarian aid to Iraq so far this year, a government spokeswoman said, and in June added Iraq to the list of Canada's "development partners," which could see it get more support. The sum includes $2-million in aid Canada announced on June 20, targeted at displaced persons and refugees in Iraq, the government said. A month earlier, Canada had also sent another $2-million to Iraq through the United Nations World Food Programme, also included in the $6.8-million.

Since 2009, Canada has resettled 18,200 Iraqi refugees in Canada, the federal government said.

"We are looking at providing even more support through our existing refugee resettlement programs," said Codie Taylor, a spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, adding that the government "will continue to build on our record of taking decisive action to resettle [religious minorities] facing persecution by [Islamic State] terrorists."

With a report from Daniel Leblanc

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