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‘Long haul’ in Iraq means humanitarian aid, not necessarily military action: Nicholson

WATCH ABOVE: Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson says Canada’s mission in Iraq is making progress and his government will soon decide whether it will be extended.

OTTAWA —Maintaining a presence in Iraq over the “long haul” doesn’t necessarily mean extending the ongoing military mission against ISIS, Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson said Sunday.

“I mean the long haul … in terms of humanitarian assistance,” he said in an interview on The West Block with Tom Clark. “Now if you’re asking about the military engagement, we have a six-month mandate for that, and that’s something for the government to consider and make up its mind.”

READ MORE: Canada won’t add extra special forces soldiers to Iraq mission, Kenney says

Questions about the future of Canada’s role in Iraq have been swirling since the minister earlier this month said Canada would be involved “for the longer term.”

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The comments came after an unannounced trip to Iraq, where he met with Kurdish leaders. Approximately 600 Canadian troops were deployed to the region after Parliament approved a six-month mission, scheduled to expire in less than three weeks, on April 7.

The Conservatives have said they will once again seek approval from Parliament should they decide to extend the anti-ISIS mission.

READ MORE: Female recruits to ISIS, The recruiter’s call

“The government is considering its options, and if the government decides to continue that, we’ve indicated we’ll place the matter before Parliament,” Nicholson said. “So you’re looking at the next couple of weeks if we come forward with something.”

Meanwhile, late last week, there was a curious story out of Istanbul, Turkey that someone working with a Western intelligence agency helped three British girls join ISIS in Syria.

READ MORE: What we know about the alleged Canadian connection to teen ISIS recruits

That person has been arrested and, according to some reports, he had a connection to Canada’s spy network.

So far, the Canadian government has not denied the story. On Sunday, Nicholson refused to even discuss the matter.

“I won’t get involved in issues or talk about issues of national security,” he said. “Canada’s hands are always clean. We’re always very careful about what we do.”

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