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Politics Islamic State the ‘new generation’ of terrorists, foreign minister tells UN

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird answers a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday, Sept.18, 2014.

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Islamic State militants are part of a "new generation" of terrorists that endanger global stability and security, Canada's foreign minister says.

John Baird made the comments during a speech to the United Nations Security Council Friday afternoon. He was among a number of foreign ministers who were invited to address the 15-member Council during a special meeting focused on the global threat posed by the extremist militants.

Mr. Baird said he welcomed the role the United States has taken in battling the IS group and called for broader co-ordination from the international community. Islamic State militants have taken control of large swaths of Syria and Iraq, where they have used brutal tactics to control or kill those they believe are opposed to their ideology.

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"I don't need to persuade you that [Islamic State] is evil and that it must be stopped before it becomes an even greater threat to global security," Mr. Baird said, according to his prepared remarks. "The question we must answer today is how do we, as an international community of civilized nations, confront this dangerous and nihilistic force?"

Mr. Baird called the extremists arrogant and said they bask in their "vile acts," exploiting the Internet in order to have a disproportionate impact on the broader public.

Canada is sending 69 special forces to Northern Iraq to advise and support Kurdish fighters battling the extremists, and is ferrying bullets and other military equipment to the region. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said the Canadian soldiers' role will not include combat and the mission will be re-evaluated after 30 days.

"I believe that not only is terrorism the greatest challenge of our generation, but we need to face up to a new generation of terrorism," Mr. Baird said in his speech. "[Islamic State] is more of a terrorist army than the traditional image of an isolated cell of extremists. It is the toxic mix of medieval ideology with modern weaponry."

Mr. Baird noted that during a recent trip he took to Iraq, he spoke with a Christian family that was forced to flee their home after their neighbours gave them up to Islamic State militants. "This rejection of religious freedom, this severing of long-standing bonds and shared history, this is not humanity. It is the law of the jungle," he said.

Speaking at the same meeting, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said all countries – including Iran – have a role to play in combatting the threat of IS militants. Those comments represent a shift in tone from last week, when Mr. Kerry suggested it would be inappropriate for Iran to be involved in talks on how to address IS extremism.

Asked about Mr. Kerry's comments after his speech, Mr. Baird suggested Canada still sees no place for Iran in the international effort. "From time to time we take a different point of view and obviously we have taken a much tougher line on Iran's nuclear program, on Iran's material support for terrorism and on Iran's abysmal and deteriorating human rights record," he said.

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He added that Canada would welcome Iran taking a more constructive role in the world. "Obviously the Iranian people have a huge potential to play a much bigger role not just in the region but in world affairs, and we look forward to the day when circumstances will allow that."

Mr. Kerry said the last time the Security Council was focused on Iraq was when that country's government was "in confrontation" with the international community. "Today, however, we come together in support of the new Iraqi government, that has already made great strides in a short amount of time," he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to chair a separate Security Council discussion next week, focused on concerns about foreign fighters who are travelling to Syria and Iraq to join IS militants. Security officials in Canada believe close to 130 Canadians are somehow involved in extremist activities abroad, including about 30 who are believed to be in Syria.

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