Iraq asks Turkey for time to take steps against PKK

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BAGHDAD, Nov 17 (Reuters) Iraq urged Turkey today to give it time to implement measures aimed at restricting the movements of Kurdish separatist rebels, a day after Iraq's President said a Turkish incursion was now ''almost inevitable''.

Iraq's Kurdistan regional government (KRG) has set up roadblocks to stop the flow of food and fuel to rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), who use Iraq's mountainous north as a launchpad for attacks on southern Turkey.

''Turkey should allow for steps taken ... to limit PKK activity. These steps have only been in operation for two weeks,'' Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told reporters in Baghdad.

''Turkey wants to get rid of the PKK forever... We are trying to help them in a way that is within our capacity,'' he said, adding unilateral action by Turkey would be unacceptable.

Turkey has massed up to 100,000 troops backed by tanks, artillery and planes on Iraq's border and threatened to launch a major military operation to crush the PKK guerrillas.

Members of Turkey's ruling AK party were quoted as saying yesterday that a cross-border operation could only be averted if the rebels laid down their arms. An opinion poll published yesterday showed 81 per cent of Turks favour an incursion.

Iraqi President Jalal al-Talabani, a Kurd, said yesterday a limited Turkish military operation was ''now almost inevitable''.

He said there were indications Turkey would limit the scope of the operation to the mountains, where the PKK was present, and would not target areas under the KRG's control.

REUTERS PY BST2037

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