Iran kills three Kurdish rebels - report

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TEHRAN, Nov 8 (Reuters) Iranian security forces have killed three Kurdish rebels in the country's Kurdistan province bordering Iraq, an official Iranian daily reported today.

The newspaper, Iran, quoted ''an informed source'' as saying they were members of the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), an Iranian offshoot of the separatist Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) movement that is fighting neighbouring Turkey.

''This group is directly supported by Western countries,'' Iran quoted the source as saying, listing the United States and Germany.

There was no immediate comment from Iranian officials, who have also previously alleged US support for Kurdish guerrillas operating out of northern Iraq.

The daily did not say when the incident took place.

Several clashes between Iranian forces and Kurdish rebels have been reported this year in northwest Iran near the border with Turkey and Iraq. Analysts say PJAK rebels, like the PKK, have bases in the remote mountains of northeastern Iraq.

Iran, which like Turkey has a Kurdish minority, has said it wants a peaceful end to Turkey's stand-off with rebel Kurds in northern Iraq.

Turkey has assembled 100,000 troops on its border with Iraq, readying to cross into northern Iraq where some 3,000 PKK guerrillas are based.

Helping to ease concerns about an imminent major Turkish military operation in northern Iraq, US President George W Bush told Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Monday that Washington was committed to countering the PKK.

Both the United States and Turkey regard the PKK as a terrorist group. But Washington has urged NATO-ally Turkey not to carry out a major offensive, fearing it could destabilise northern Iraq and escalate into a bigger regional crisis.

Iran quoted its source as saying that American generals had ''visited PJAK's bases in Iraq and approved their activities.'' It did not give details.

Reuters MS GC1747

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