Canada PM Visits Iraq after Air War Extension

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Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper made an unannounced visit to Iraq on Saturday days after lawmakers extended and expanded the NATO member's air campaign against the Islamic State jihadist group.

Harper held talks with his Iraqi counterpart Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad before heading to the autonomous Kurdish region in the north where Ottawa has military trainers deployed to assist the fightback against the jihadists.

Abadi's office said the allies had discussed "the war being waged by Iraq against the terrorist bands of Daesh (IS) and the international support being provided to Iraq in this campaign."

Canada is the only Western ally so far to have joined the United States in carrying out air strikes against IS in neighboring Syria as well as Iraq.

European allies and Australia have joined the air campaign in Iraq but in Syria Washington has otherwise had to depend on Arab allies for support.

Canadian lawmakers voted to expand the air campaign to Syria on Monday over leftwing opposition to Harper's ruling Conservatives.

Ottawa first joined the U.S.-led air strikes on IS in Iraq in November.

Harper has defended the need for expanded sorties, saying the IS group "must cease to have any safe haven in Syria."

But opposition parties warned that the air campaign might embroil Canada in a regional conflict that could drag on for decades.

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