Obama wants more help in Iraq

Shane Wright Beijing

Barack Obama has appealed directly to Tony Abbott to boost Australia's commitment to the war against Islamic State, backing up extra American troops poised to train the Iraqi army.

After a one-hour meeting between the President and the Prime Minister, Mr Obama said that with the war in northern Iraq and Syria changing, there had to be more support from the coalition of nations already in the area.

At the weekend, Mr Obama revealed plans to send an extra 1500 troops, at a cost of almost $6 billion, in Iraq to help train local soldiers.

Yesterday, Mr Obama said he was hoping for further support from other nations to help build up Iraqi forces so they could fight effectively on their own.

"We're moving to a slightly different phase now," he said.

"As we are setting that up, I am having conversations with Australia and other coalition partners that are already committed to putting trainers in to see how they can supplement and work with us in this overall effort."

After the meeting, Mr Abbott confirmed up to 200 special forces troops had started going into Iraq, after red tape snags had delayed them for about two months in the Middle East.

They are expected to be based in Baghdad initially.

Australia already has six Super Hornets and an air refueller involved in the IS bombing program over Iraq.

Mr Abbott said it was important to respond strongly to IS because of the threat it posed to the world. But he was non- committal about putting more Australian troops into training positions.

"Our priority at the moment is getting our special forces into Baghdad and then into the field on the advise and assist mission we've set them," he said. "That's happening and I'm confident our people will do good work."

While the war against IS dominated their discussion, the two leaders also canvassed the coming G20 summit in Brisbane, regional trade and the proposed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Yesterday's meeting was one of the key events of the Asia- Pacific Economic Co-operation summit, being held in Beijing for the first time. Today, Mr Abbott is likely to hold a short meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he vowed recently to "shirt front" over the shooting down of Flight MH17, resulting in the death of 38 Australians.

But Mr Abbott signalled a change in his approach to the meeting, saying his discussion with Mr Putin would not be the biggest part of his agenda either at APEC or the G20.

"It wasn't a tragedy, it is an atrocity, it was a crime. Russia has said it will do everything to bring the perpetrators to justice," he said. "Good on Russia for saying that. I will just be looking for an assurance from the President that what they said then, they meant."

Mr Abbott also had talks with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang yesterday.

I am having conversations with coalition partners to see how they can supplement and work with us. "US President Barack Obama