NZ won't join Russian-led coalition against IS

NZ won't join Russian-led coalition against IS

Prime Minister John Key will stand by the United States in the fight against Islamic State (IS), and says New Zealand won't be joining Russia's attempt to lead its own anti-IS coalition.

Both US and Russian presidents have gone head-to-head at the United Nations General Assembly in New York over what to do about the crisis in Syria.

But Western countries are coming around to the Russian point of view.

It was super power versus super power – both Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama were clearly uncomfortable during their first one-on-one meeting in two years.

It was made even more awkward after both had just used the General Assembly to exchange barbs in a global round of 'My Army's Bigger than Your Army'.

"I lead the strongest military the world has ever known," Obama told the world's leaders.

But both the US and Russia have now been forced together in the fight against IS.

"Those who, just like the Nazis, show evil and hatred of humankind," Putin said, describing IS.

He wants the terror group defeated by what he calls an anti-Hitler type coalition – one he's determined to lead, but New Zealand is not determined to follow.

"We have a certain amount of resource, we have to pick and choose where we apply that resource," said Mr Key.

New Zealand will therefore instead stick to having troops in Iraq, alongside the US.

But despite Western reluctance, countries are falling in behind Putin, doing things to appease his Syrian ally Bashar al-Assad.

Australia's foreign minister has joined Britain and France in dropping calls for him to be immediately ousted.

Even the US has softened – it will no longer train Syrian rebels opposed to Assad.

However with Russia pushing fire power into Syria, there's concern it won't just target IS militants – but that Syrian civilians opposed to Assad will also be killed.

"It's always a risk but I suspect their focus of attention in the first instance will be on IS," says Mr Key.

The power struggle between Russia and the US wears on throughout leaders' week. Tomorrow Obama is hosting an anti-IS get-together, while Russia holds a smaller but similar version the following day.

Both events are invitation only and New Zealand has secured a spot at each.

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