France calls on Russia to make 'real strike' against Islamic State

By John Irish NEW YORK (Reuters) - France's foreign minister took a swipe at Russia on Tuesday saying that Moscow has talked a lot about striking Islamic State, but if it wanted to prove its real intentions in Syria then it should stop "media strikes" and carry out real ones. "The international community has hit Daesh (Islamic State). France has hit Daesh, Bashar al-Assad very little, and the Russians not at all. So one has to look at who does what," Laurent Fabius told reporters in New York. Daesh is the Arabic acronym for Islamic State militant group. Fabius said that if Russia "is against the terrorists, it's not abnormal to launch strikes against them." At the United Nations General Assembly on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he wanted to fight Islamic militants but there was no alternative to cooperating with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's army. The United States and other western countries do not want Assad in power. Western nations have been questioning Putin's intentions in Syria, Russia's long-time ally, after Moscow sent tanks and warplanes there in the last month. A U.S.-led coalition has been bombing Islamic State targets in Syria for about a year with a separate coalition with some of the same countries striking the militants in neighboring Iraq. Western officials say the strikes have weakened the group in some areas, though it remains in control of significant territory. "What's important in the fight against Islamic State is not the media strike, it's the real strike," Fabius said in response to questions about Putin's call for a wide-ranging coalition against Islamic State. "(The Russians) talk a lot, but as far as I can tell they haven't committed any planes against Islamic State." French warplanes struck their first targets in Syria on Sunday, destroying an Islamic State training camp. France was the first country to join the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and has also provided limited logistical support to Syrian rebels it considers moderate, including Kurds. Fabius made his remarks days before a summit in Paris on Friday between President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Putin to discuss the Ukraine crisis. French officials have said they would seek clarification from Russia on its Syria plans, which they fear are more focused on strengthening Assad than fighting the militants. "But there has to the perspective of a (political) transition," Fabius said. "Bashar has been qualified by the U.N. as a criminal against humanity. How can you imagine Syrians coming back if we tell them that their future passes through Assad?" (Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Grant McCool)