Australia says forces sent to Iraq standing idle in UAE over legal status

(Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Wednesday that 200 special forces sent to battle Islamic State militants in Iraq had not entered the country because Baghdad had not offered them sufficient legal protections.

Australian fighter jets began hitting targets inside Iraq earlier this month as part of the U.S.-led coalition to beat back the radical group, which has in recent days made advances at the north Syrian town of Kobani and in western Iraq.

U.S. President Barack Obama met on Tuesday with military leaders from 20 countries including, Australia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia amid growing pressure for the U.S.-led coalition to do more to halt their advance.

But the Australian troops, intended to conduct “advise and assist” missions with the Iraqi army, had been idle in the United Arab Emirates since mid-September because, Abbott said, a formal agreement on their legal status could not be agreed…