Iraqi govt sending delegation to Turkey over crisis

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BAGHDAD, Oct 17 (Reuters) The Iraqi government said today it would send a delegation to Turkey to assure Ankara that it was committed to stopping Kurdish rebels from using Iraq as a launchpad for attacks on its neighbour.

The announcement came as Turkey's parliament prepared to vote on cross-border operations into northern Iraq to hunt down Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels hiding out in the mountainous region.

Turkey's move follows a series of deadly attacks on Turkish troops.

The Iraqi announcement followed a meeting of a government crisis committee chaired by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki which has been set up to try to resolve tensions with Turkey.

Yesterday, Maliki dispatched Sunni Arab Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi to Ankara for urgent talks to head off any major incursion into northern Iraq by Turkish troops.

''The Iraqi government affirms its commitments to prevent the terrorist activities of the PKK against neighbouring Turkey,'' Maliki's office said in a statement.

It said the government would send a ''high-level political and security delegation to Turkey to deal with the latest security developments on the borders between the two countries''.

The statement did not say when the delegation would leave or who would be in it.

US and Iraqi security forces have so far failed to take action against the estimated 3,000 PKK guerrillas hiding in northern Iraq, despite repeated Turkish appeals.

Baghdad's government has little sway over the largely autonomous Kurdish north of the country, which has its own government and security forces that are reluctant to take action against their own kin.

The Iraqi statement reiterated that Baghdad was committed to an anti-terrorism deal it signed with Ankara in September, under which the two countries agreed to take all ncessary measures, including financial and intelligence, to combat the PKK and other militant groups.

''The Iraqi government affirms its desire to establish the best relations with neighbouring Turkey on the basis of joint interests and ... non-intervention in internal affairs,'' it said.

Ankara blames the PKK for the deaths of more than 30,000 people since the group launched an armed struggle for a Kurdish homeland in southeast Turkey in 1984.

Reuters RN DB1304

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