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Julie Bishop doesn't envisage Australian troops returning to Iraq

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has described the situation in Iraq as ''deeply disturbing'' while defending the 2003 removal of Saddam Hussein as ''a good thing''.

Ms Bishop said she did not expect Australian troops to return to Iraq in response to an offensive by jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, who last week seized control of the country's second largest city, Mosul, as well as the town of Tikrit, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein.

''I didn't envisage a circumstance where we would be sending in troops. But we certainly stand ready to support the humanitarian crisis should a request be made,'' Ms Bishop told Channel Ten. ''There hasn't been a request from the Iraqi government, as far as I'm aware.''

Ms Bishop said militants were attacking other cities and key infrastructure, including oil refineries, killing hundreds of people and leading 500,000 people to flee Mosul and other cities in the north-west.

''So a humanitarian crisis is unfolding, and this highly extreme and violent and brutal terrorist group is now in control of cities in the north-west of Iraq,'' she said.

Ms Bishop said Iraqi security forces were amassing north of Baghdad to repel any effort by militants to take the capital.

Ms Bishop was a member of the Howard government that committed Australian forces to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Asked on Sunday whether this had been a mistake in light of current events, Ms Bishop said: ''Well, I supported the liberation of Iraq at that time. I thought Saddam Hussein was one of the worst dictators on the planet at that time. And his removal was a good thing.''

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said those concerned about the welfare of their Australian family and friends in Iraq should attempt to contact them directly.

People unable to do so are encouraged to call the department's 24-hour consular emergency centre on 1300 555 135, or +61 2 6261 3305 if calling from overseas.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten told reporters on Friday any military response would have to be in ''the Australian national interest'' to win Labor's support.

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