Lavrov says Russia helping fight against militants in Iraq

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday Moscow was helping the fight against Islamist insurgents in Iraq with the consent of the Baghdad government. "It is necessary to support the cooperation between the Iraqi government and the Iraqi Kurdistan in the fight against terrorism, but we are doing it with the consent of the government," he said. Lavrov, speaking at the Barents Euro-Arctic Council in Oulu, Finland, also said a new intelligence center in Baghdad currently staffed by Russian, Iraqi, Iranian and Syrian officials remained open to all interested parties. "These events show that all those who oppose terrorism who should get together and coordinate action," he added. Iraq has begun bombing Islamic State jihadists with the help of the new intelligence center, a senior Iraqi parliamentary figure said on Tuesday. Lavrov said the turmoil in the Middle East had been caused by the downfall of nation states. He said that due to a power vacuum, Libya had turned into a black hole through which people and arms were being smuggled. He said it was for Syrian refugees to decide in which country they sought shelter. He said Russia had provided financial and humanitarian aid to Jordan and Lebanon to deal with the influx of people fleeing the war. Earlier on Wednesday, Lavrov said Russia had not received requests for direct military support from countries other than Syria. (Reporting by Anna Ercanbrack; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Andrew Roche)