Vatican warns that force may be necessary to stop attacks on Christians by Islamic State (IS)

Vatican warns that force may be necessary to stop attacks on Christians by Islamic State (IS)

The Vatican says force may be necessary to stop attacks on Christians and other Middle East minorities by Islamic State (IS) if no political solution is found.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican's top diplomat at the UN in Geneva, said jihadists were committing "genocide" and must be stopped.

The Vatican traditionally opposes military intervention in the region.

However, Pope Francis decried the beheading in February of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians by IS in Libya.

IS have declared across-border caliphate after seizing land in eastern Syria andnorthern Iraq

"What's needed is a coordinated and well-thought-out coalition to do everything possible to achieve a political settlement without violence," Crux quoted Archbishop Tomasi as saying, "but if that's not possible, then the use of force will be necessary."

Archbishop Tomasi emphasised in the interview that Christians are not the only minority group the Vatican wants to protect from Islamic State, which has beheaded Arab and western hostages and kidnapped or killed members of different religious minorities.

"Christians, Yazidis, Shi'ites, Sunnis, Alawites, all are human beings whose rights deserve to be protected," he said. "Christians are a special target at this moment, but we want to help them without excluding anyone."

Meanwhile, Iraqi Kurdish authorities claim they have evidence Islamic State militants used chlorine gas as a chemical weapon against their peshmerga fighters.

The Security Council of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region said in a statement the peshmerga had taken soil and clothing samples after an IS suicide bombing in northern Iraq in January.

It said laboratory analysis showed "the samples contained levels of chlorine that suggested the substance was used in weaponised form."

Chlorine is a choking agent the use of which as a chemical weapon dates back to World War One. It is banned under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits all use of toxic agents on the battlefield.