Iraq PM says sending ground troops to Syria would be 'dangerous escalation'

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi warned on Wednesday of a "dangerous escalation" if ground troops were deployed to Syria, comments aimed at Sunni Arab countries that have said they are prepared to enter the fray.

The foreign minister of Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday his country would be willing to commit special forces to the fight, as Syrian troops, backed by Russian air strikes, press a major offensive around the city of Aleppo.

The Aleppo campaign has reversed opposition gains on the ground and encircled rebels, which Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states have backed against President Bashar al-Assad.

"Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called for a political solution to the Syrian crisis and not to send ground troops because that would lead to a dangerous escalation," Abadi said during a visit to Rome, according to a statement on his website.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) said on Sunday it was also willing to supply ground troops to help support and train an international military coalition against Islamic State in Syria provided such efforts were led by the United States.

One of Iraq's most powerful Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias, which has already sent fighters to support Assad's troops, warned earlier this week that Arab forces sent to Syria or Iraq would "open the gates of hell".

(Reporting by Isabel Coles; Editing by Dominic Evans)