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ANKARA — Turkey's government and military leaders are weighing options for a possible Turkish contribution to a planned military offensive against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), officials here said.

"All options are open although it is unlikely that the government will finally decide to send ground troops to fight [ISIL]," a senior security official said. "There is a general understanding that we will do more militarily."

A senior Turkish diplomat said that the international effort dictates a more visible Turkish contribution to any offensive against ISIL.

"Iraq's territorial integrity is in every country's interest in the region. We will soon know what kind of Turkish military support would work best for a concerted action against ISIL," he said.

Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz said Monday that Turkey would continue to assess a further contribution to an Iraqi-led, international military operation to recapture Mosul, Iraq's second biggest city, from ISIL, which took the city last June.

Officials say Ankara is preparing to gear up a joint program with the United States to train and equip Syrian opposition groups who would fight both ISIL and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime. Priority training programs would target Sunni tribal groups around the Mosul area for their fight against ISIL.

Yilmaz told reporters that Turkey is part of the coalition against ISIL and has started to make a concrete contribution. "We'll carry out the evaluation for further contribution in due course, based on our national interests. Ultimately we'll fulfill our responsibility as a coalition member," he said.

Yılmaz is set to visit Baghdad and Arbil on Wednesday, a Kurdish-controlled Iraqi city. The minister will be accompanied by officials from the Foreign Ministry and the Turkish armed forces. Officials said Turkey and Iraq would sign agreements for sharing intelligence against ISIL.

One official said the agreement between Ankara and Baghdad may also involve Turkish provisions of non-lethal military equipment to groups fighting ISIL.

Email: bbekdil@defensenews.com

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