Zibari told Reuters on Sunday that US forces in Iraq were poised to capture the Kurdish rebels, who have been waging a campaign against Turkey for decades to win self-determination and have bases in northern Iraq.

"They are in regions outside the control of the central and Kurdish government. If they move, the American forces can arrest them," said Zibari, himself an Iraqi Kurd.

"We have an obligation to Turkey and to control all non-Iraqi armed groups and prevent activities against neighbouring countries.

"We reject any regional military interference in Iraqi affairs, whether Turkish, Iranian or Arab, because it destroys confidence and shifts the focus when our priority is finishing the political process, improving the security situation and providing basic services."

Constitutional panel

Zibari also said the Iraqi constitutional panel would complete its work and elections would take place even if a boycott by Sunni Arab members continued.

"It is in the interest of the Sunni Arabs to participate without making excuses, because if they do not participate in drafting the constitution, it would not embody their interests and aspirations," he told Aljazeera.

The leader of the Iraq National Council for Dialogue, Saleh al-Mutlaq, has said the new Iraqi constitution will not be complete without the participation of the Sunni Arabs.

Turkish assertion

General Ilker Basbug of the Turkish General Staff said last week that the United States had given orders for the capture of PKK rebels in Iraq, adding that Turkey had a right to enter Iraqi territory to attack them if no action was taken.

Turkish General Ilker Basbug said
Turkish troops could enter Iraq

Ankara has urged the United States to act against the PKK in Iraq, where the Turkish military says about 3000 militants operate in the northern mountains, in a part of Iraq designated as Kurdish-ruled.

Although Zibari welcomed US moves to pursue PKK leaders, the rebels command sympathy among Iraqi Kurds, who see Turkey as having persecuted its own Kurdish population.

Oil centre

Iraqis are wary of what they regard as Turkish territorial ambitions, especially in the oil centre of Kirkuk, which was once mostly populated by ethnic Turkmens and was included in Iraq as part of a colonial deal between Britain and France.

Zibari said the Iraqi government was not capable of pursuing the PKK using its own forces and had to rely on the United States.

"We have to be content with this arrangement until we complete the build-up of our own security forces to control the situation," he said.

Growing numbers

Turkey's General Staff says the rebels have crossed into Turkey more frequently and in larger numbers in the past year.

It has said they number almost 2000 inside Turkey, carrying out attacks on military targets in the mainly Kurdish southeast.

Under Saddam Hussein's rule, Turkey had a tacit agreement with Iraq that it could pursue the PKK into northern Iraqi territory.

Turkey has urged Iraq and its neighbours to tighten border security because of rising violence since the PKK ended a unilateral ceasefire in June 2004.

More than 30,000 people have been killed in the conflict since the PKK took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984 with the aim of carving out an ethnic homeland in the southeast.