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  • A soldier from the United Arab Emirates stands guard next to a UAE military plane at the airport of Yemen

    A soldier from the United Arab Emirates stands guard next to a UAE military plane at the airport of Yemen's southern port city of Aden, Aug. 8, 2015. | Photo: Reuters

Published 7 February 2016

The announcement comes a day after Saudi Arabia said it is ready to provide ground troops to fight the Islamic State group.

The United Arab Emirates said it was ready to send ground troops to fight with an international military coalition against the Islamic State group in Syria, a high-ranking official said Sunday.

However, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said at a news conference that the Middle Eastern nation would only deploy troops to war-torn Syria if it was part U.S. led assault.

"I think that this has been our position throughout ... that a real campaign against Daesh has to include ground elements," he said, referring to the Islamic State group by its Arabic acronym. "We are not talking about a thousand troops but we are talking about troops on the ground that will lead the way, that will train, that will support."

The UAE has troops in Yemen supporting Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi government's attempts to push back Houthi rebels and forces loyal to the former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The announcement comes just days after neighbor Saudi Arabia also said it is ready to participate in allied ground operations against the Islamic State group in Syria.

Saudi Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asiri said during an interview with al-Arabiya TV news that “aerial operations are not the ideal solution" to combat the terror group that has ravaged large swathes of Syria since the civil war broke out in 2011.

In a retort to al-Asiri’s comments, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said that any ground troops who enter Syria without prior permission from the government would return to their countries in a “wooden coffin.”

"Any ground intervention in Syria, without the consent of the Syrian government, will be considered an aggression that should be resisted by every Syrian citizen," he warned.

The brash language used by al-Moualem could be signs of a newfound confidence in President Bashar Assad's government. Syria’s military, flanked by Russian and Hezbollah troops, made major gains in the rebel held city of Aleppo last week in a bid to recapture one of the country's most populous settlements.

Saudi Arabia and most other Gulf states are opposed to the Assad government.

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