By Suleiman Al-Khalidi
AMMAN (Reuters) - Jordan will begin training the first group of army troops from neighboring Iraq in the next few weeks as part of the international effort to fight Islamic State, the Iraqi defense minister said on Monday.
Speaking after meeting Jordanian King Abdullah, Khaled al Obeidi said Amman would also supply the Iraqi army with arms needed for its drawn-out fight against the radical Islamists who have seized wide swathes of the north and west of his country.
Obeidi aims to rebuild the Iraqi army, which fell apart last summer in the face of Islamic State's blitz across northern Iraq during which at least four Iraqi divisions crumbled.
"I think in the next weeks the first batch of Iraqi army will get training in Jordan," the defense minister told Reuters in Amman. "The arms warehouses of Jordan from weapons and ammunition will be open to the Iraqi army."
King Abdullah, a U.S. ally whose country has joined the military campaign against Islamic State militants in Syria, said on Sunday it was crucial to support both Iraqi and Syrian tribes threatened by Islamic State fighters.
Jordan has in recent months beefed up its troops along the 180-km (112-mile) border with Iraq, where Islamic State fighters have control over stretches of the Baghdad-Jordan highway, a major Middle Eastern trade route.
Obeidi was due to visit Jordanian army camps on Tuesday. He said his talks with the army's chief of staff would focus on ways of regaining control of the crucial overland trade and passenger artery.
The fall of large parts of Anbar province bordering Jordan to Islamic State poses a major security risks for the kingdom, officials say. Tribes currently fighting the jihadists in Anbar have longstanding ties with Jordan.
Jordan has provided a logistics base for the U.S.-led air campaign against Islamic State in Syria and is a hub for intelligence gathering operations against the jihadists, a western diplomatic source said.
The kingdom, which helped train thousands of Iraqi army troops in the post-Saddam Hussein era as part of U.S. plans to rebuild the former Iraqi military, now sees Sunni tribal fighters playing a lead role in battling Islamic militants in their own areas.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Ned Parker and Tom Heneghan)