Iraq 'to hunt down PKK fighters'

Nuri al-Maliki vows to "chase and arrest" Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq.

    Al-Maliki, second from right, pledged to tackle the PKK at talks intended to address Iraqi security [AFP]

    Al-Maliki's pledge came after he met Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister and Abdullah Gul, Turkey's president, on the sidelines of a conference in Istanbul.
    The conference in Istanbul of "neighbours" of Iraq was originally meant to focus on security inside Iraq.
    However, it was overshadowed by tensions between Turkey and Iraq over the ongoing attacks by the PKK.
    "The main question [today] was the PKK and whether Turkey would be satisfied with what Iraq had to offer as measures to counter the PKK," Hoda Abdel Hamid, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Istanbul, said.
    "Iraq has put on the table some measures that it says it can achieve within its own limitations and means," she said.

    Military option
    Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq's foreign minister, said at the close of the conference that Iraq was serious about its commitment to Ankara.

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    "No-one should be under any illusions that Iraq is very serious in co-operating actively and in lending its active support to the Turkish government," he said.
    Baghdad is under pressure from both the Turkish and US governments to act against PKK fighters based in northern Iraq.
    Turkey has up to 100,000 troops on the border for a possible cross-border offensive against an estimated 3,000 rebels.


    Al-Maliki's spokesman said Baghdad had not ruled out joint military action with Ankara but Zebari said other measures had to be considered before such a move.

    The Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq closed the offices of a political party that is believed to sympathise with the PKK, a Kurdish official said on Saturday.

    Fouad Hussain, head of the office of Masoud Barzani, Kurdish president, said the Kurdistan Democratic Solution Party had no licence to operate.

    Turkish pressure

    Ankara has been increasing pressure on the United States to help curb the attacks by the Kurdish fighters from northern Iraq.

    Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, has urged Ankara to show restraint.

    PKK fighters are known to have several
    bases in northern Iraq [AFP]


    She has expressed fears that an incursion by Turkey into Iraq would destabilise the region and complicate the US mission there.

    Turkey is growing increasingly impatient at what it sees as US 'foot-dragging' over the PKK issue.

    Rice has promised more action from the US, but provided little detail on how far Washington was prepared to go except to offer improved intelligence-sharing on the PKK.

    Iraq plan

    Rice, Zebari, and Ali Babacan, the Turkish foreign minister, held talks on the sidelines of the conference to discuss a strategy to fight the PKK, which Rice has labelled a "common enemy".

    Ali al-Dabbagh, an Iraqi government spokesman, said: "We are ready to take whatever steps to secure the border but it should come through a joint agreement between us and Turkey and within our capacity."

    The central government in Baghdad has little control over northern Iraq, an area considered semi-autonomous and run by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which Turkey refuses to talk to.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and Agencies


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