Abbott changes position on purpose of intervention in Iraq

PRIME Minister Tony Abbott says the "fundamental purpose" of tackling the Islamic State in northern Iraq was stopping terrorists from returning to threaten Australians.

The statement was a change in rhetoric for Mr Abbott, who has for weeks said the key purpose of Australia's involvement in a United States-led military intervention was that of a "humanitarian mission" to help marginalised Iraqis.

Rather, Mr Abbott said the role Australia may play in any military intervention was "a matter of domestic security rather than simply being a matter of international geopolitics".

"What we are doing is trying to ensure that as far as is humanly possible, people who have been radicalised and brutalised by serving with ISIL are not a menace to the Australian community," he said.

"That's the fundamental purpose: to ensure that people who have been radicalised and brutalised through contact with this death cult are not a menace to the Australian community."

While Mr Abbott said the government was working to "see what we can usefully contribute", "in the end" the fundamental objective was to prevent radicalised Australians from returning and posing a domestic threat.

His comments came as United States President Barack Obama on Monday prepared to outline what the White House has called a new plan to tackle ISIS.

However, Mr Obama has already reportedly ruled out a "new Iraq war", as he prepared to address the US Congress overnight Australian time. - APN NEWSDESK