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Germany OKs sending arms for Kurds in Iraq; France sending more aid; Italy also giving weapons

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BERLIN - Germany is prepared to arm Kurdish fighters battling Sunni insurgents in northern Iraq, officials said Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier cited the "barbaric" actions of the Islamic State group that has taken control of large parts of Iraq in recent weeks, and the threat that their further advance could pose to the region and Europe.

"We are prepared, in principle, to provide weapons and ammunition within our means," Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said at a joint news conference with Steinmeier in Berlin.

The two ministers said Germany would closely co-ordinate its efforts with France, Britain, Italy and other European countries that have expressed willingness to deliver weapons to the Kurds.

France began shipping arms to Kurdish forces last week and has also supplied similar weapons to Western-backed Syrian opposition forces. The French government announced Wednesday it was getting a new shipment of humanitarian aid ready for Iraq as minorities under attack by Sunni militants issued a new appeal for help.

While Italian Premier Matteo Renzi visited Iraq on Wednesday, his defence minister told lawmakers the country hoped to contribute machine-guns formerly used by Italy's military, as well as ammunition and anti-tank rockets.

The minister, Roberta Pinotti, promised that the weapons' arrival in Iraq would be monitored "to control that the arms get where they are supposed to go."

A German defence ministry spokesman said a decision on the exact type and amount of equipment Germany sends would be taken within a week.

Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq have submitted a "wish list" of weapons they need to the international community, said Jens Flosdorff. Training for Kurdish fighters was also being examined, he said.

Germany, France, Britain and Italy, have already sent dozens of tons of humanitarian aid to help refugees in northern Iraq.

The offensive by IS radicals has left thousands dead and forced 1.5 million people from their homes.

Sending weapons would be a significant step for Germany, which traditionally has shied away from military involvement abroad because of its Nazi past. The decision followed intense domestic and international pressure.

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Frances D'Emilio in Rome and Greg Keller in Paris contributed to this report.

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