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Europe pledges help to northern Iraq

LONDON (AP) -- Europe stepped up support Tuesday for thousands of people fleeing advancing Islamic militant forces in northern Iraq, pledging more air drops, aid money and non-lethal equipment to ease suffering and bolster fighters battling the Sunni insurgency.

Britain and France dropped water, food and solar lamps to afflicted Yazidis sheltering on Mount Sinjar amid fears of a massive humanitarian catastrophe. Britain fast-tracked some 3 million pounds ($5 million) more to help aid groups in northern Iraq deal with the disaster and deployed Tornado surveillance aircraft to get a better idea of the situation on the mountain.

Germany said it planned to send non-lethal equipment such as vehicles, night-vision gear and bomb detectors. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen reiterated Germany's reluctance to provide arms, saying it went against the government's principles to send weapons into war zones, but indicated that this position might be revisited.

“If the question is to prevent a genocide, then we need to discuss matters again,” she said.

France plans a second delivery of humanitarian aid in the next two days and was pressing to arm outgunned Kurdish fighters.

“On the one side this horrible terrorist group of the Islamic state has advanced weapons that they took from the Iraqi army on the way, and on the other side are the peshmerga, who are extremely brave but don't have the same resources,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told France Info radio on Tuesday. “We could stand by and say `there's nothing we can do' but that is not our position.”

In Brussels, an emergency meeting of ambassadors from the EU's 28 member nations was underway Tuesday to discuss the situation in Iraq. The diplomats could seek to convene an extraordinary meeting of the foreign ministers, which would be necessary to forge a new joint EU position on Iraq or arming the Kurdish forces.

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Jordans reported from Berlin; Lori Hinnant in Paris contributed to this story.

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