Iraq warns Turkey against major invasion

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London, Oct 29: Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari was quoted today as warning of disastrous regional consequences if Turkey launched a major invasion of Iraq to strike at Kurdish rebels.

Zebari told the BBC in an interview the present crisis was ''dead serious'' and that Turkey had shown no interest in Iraqi proposals to calm the situation, the broadcaster said in a report on its Web site.

Turkey has massed up to 100,000 troops, backed by warplanes and tanks, on the border between the two countries for a possible offensive against an estimated 3,000 Iraq-based rebels from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Ankara feels threatened by the Kurdish separatists, especially those attacking from bases in mountainous northern Iraq, and says it may use a military solution.

Zebari was quoted as saying there was nothing to stop Turkey taking action against PKK bases in the border mountains.

But the large-scale Turkish military build-up had raised fears the Turks were planning something bigger and deeper into northern Iraq, said Zebari.

Such a step, he said, would have ''disastrous consequences'' for stability in both countries and in the wider region.

''This would be a unilateral decision and that's why people are resisting that,'' said Zebari.

''That's why the whole government of Iraq and the whole people of Iraq are united really not to see their sovereignty, their territorial integrity undermined by a friendly neighbouring country,'' he said.

Zebari was quoted as saying Turkey had demanded Iraq hand over senior members of the PKK sheltering in Iraq, a request he said was impossible to fulfil.

''They are not under our control, in fact. They are up in the mountains, they are armed,'' he said.

The PKK has killed about 40 people in a month in Turkey, including 12 soldiers, and said it had taken eight soldiers prisoner.

Alongside diplomatic initiatives, Turkey has used tough rhetoric to try to press the United States and Iraq into action. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday a military operation could be carried out whenever it was needed.

More than 30,000 people have been killed in the PKK's separatist campaign in mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey since 1984.

Baghdad has little control over semi-autonomous northern Iraq, which is run by the Kurdistan Regional Government. The area's leader has vowed not to hand over anyone to Turkey.


Reuters
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