Turkey and Iraq in crisis talks

Iraqi delegation visits Ankara in effort to avert Turkish raids on PKK bases.

    Jassim heads an Iraqi delegation comprising senior
    Iraqi intelligence and foreign ministry officials [AFP]
    There were no reports of any PKK casualties as a result of the Turkish air raids.
    Other members of the 11-member Iraqi delegation which visited Ankara included representatives of the two major Iraqi Kurdish parties in northern Iraq and a US military officer, about whom no other details were available.
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    Abdul-Qader al-Obeidi, Iraqi defence minister, and Sherwan al-Waili, minister of state for national security, met the Turkish foreign and interior ministers on Friday morning.
    "We came with concrete steps, concrete proposals," Anatolia news agency quoted Jassim as saying on Thursday.
    US request
    The Bush administration is urging Turkey not to launch an incursion that would destabilise Iraq's autonomous Kurdish north, Iraq's most stable region.

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    But Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, said the US desire to protect the north would not hinder Turkey's fight against members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.
    The group's fighters use mountain bases in Iraq to rest, train and get supplies in relative safety before returning to Turkey to carry out attacks against government forces in the heavily Kurdish southeast.
    "They (the Bush administration) might wish that we do not carry out a cross-border offensive, but we make the decision on what we have to do," Erdogan said during a visit to Romania.
    "We have taken necessary steps in this struggle so far, and now we are forced to take this step and we will take it."
    He said that the US should repay Turkish assistance for the invasion of Afghanistan with support for Turkey's struggle against the Kurdish separatists, who want autonomy.
    Gul's warning
    Earlier on Thursday, Abdullah Gul, the Turkish president, warned Kurdish separatists that Ankara's patience was running out after Turkish forces said they had repelled a guerrilla attack near the Iraqi border.

    The Kurds

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    - The PKK 

    - Dreams of independence
    - Turkey's lonely Kurdish villages
    - Turkey's Kurds try to be heard

    - In search of Kurdistan

    Ankara has massed up to 100,000 troops along the mountainous border before a possible cross-border operation to crush about 3,000 fighters of the PKK.
    Turkey has said that it will decide whether to cross into Iraq in pursuit of Kurdish fighters regardless of US objections, as a steady stream of US-made Turkish fighter jets roared into the skies near the Iraqi border.
    Turkish television footage meanwhile showed smoke rising from three villages in northern Iraq that were purportedly shelled by Turkish artillery on Thursday.
    Dogan news agency said there were no casualties because villagers had already fled their homes.
    It did not cite a source.
    The agency identified one of the Iraqi villages as Hezil, 5km south of the border with Turkey's Hakkari province, which also borders Iran.
    Clash with PKK
    The Turkish military said it had spotted a "group of terrorists" near a military outpost in the province of Semdinli close to Iraq on Tuesday and fired on them with tanks, artillery and other heavy weaponry.

    It said the group had been preparing for an attack.

    The military said on its website that troops kept firing on the group as they escaped towards Iraqi territory.
    The report increased the official number of fighters killed since Sunday to at least 64.
    The PKK denied any casualties, calling the military statement a "lie", the pro-Kurdish Firat news agency said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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