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Baghdad wants Turkey to stop N Iraq air raids

SULAIMANIYAH/ BAGHDAD/TEHRAN | 8/25/2011 12:00:00 AM |

Iraq summoned Turkey’s ambassador to Baghdad to demand an immediate halt to air strikes along its northern border, Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari says on Thursday while the president of the regional Kurdish administration says the Kurdish militants’ presence in the border areas provides an excuse for Turkey to carry out air strikes

The president of the autonomous Kurdish region said Wednesday that Kurdish militants provide an excuse for Iran and Turkey to bomb his homeland, whereas Baghdad-based government urged Turkey to stop the bombardment.

Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq, called for an end to the violence on all sides, and in a statement posted Wednesday implicitly accused the Kurdish militants of provoking the two countries.

Since 1984, Turkey has been fighting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, who use northern Iraq as a base for hit-and-run attacks on Turkish targets. Along the Iranian border, Kurdish militants from the Iranian Party for Free Life in Kurdistan, or PJAK, an offshoot of the PKK, have battled Iran for years. Both groups are seeking autonomy in their countries.

The PKK is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

“The presence of armed PJAK and PKK members in the mountainous border areas provides an excuse for our two neighboring countries to commit these attacks,” Barzani said in the statement.

He said that if the groups continue to use violence and Iraqi territory as bases from which to attack Iran and Turkey it “will lead to the spread of violence to the Kurdistan Region and this will not in any way help the legitimate Kurdish question.”

In Ankara, Iraq’s ambassador to Turkey, Abdul Amir Kamil Abi Tabikh, suggested that his country would not object to any ground incursion by Turkish troops to chase the Kurdish militants “as long as the operation is in line with the bilateral treaties.” “Turkey’s safety means Iraq’s safety,” Turkey’s Anatolia news agency quoted the ambassador as saying.

The Iraqi Kurdish region’s vice president said Thursday on Iraq opposed any action against Iran’s “security,” as Tehran said it would continue its operation against Kurdish militants near the border area.

“Considering the historic support and strategic relations with the Islamic republic, Iraq will oppose any action that is against Iran’s security,” Nechirvan Barzani said in a meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

 “We believe that the security of Iran is as important as that of Iraq and problems must be solved through cooperation,” Barzani, son of president of the autonomous Kurdish region Massoud Barzani, was quoted as saying by the Iranian president’s website.

Iran intends to continue the operation “to secure our borders, for the terrorists not to infiltrate and harm our people,” an operations commander, Colonel Hamid Ahmadi, told foreign media in Tehran on August 17.

In July, Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards launched a major offensive against militants from PJAK targeting their bases along the Iran-Iraq border. The Guards said they destroyed PJAK compounds inside Iraqi territory, while claiming to have killed more than 50 militants and losing eight men in the fighting.

Meanwhile, Iraq summoned Turkey’s ambassador to Baghdad to demand an immediate halt to air strikes along its northern border, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said on Thursday.

Turkey last week launched a series of attacks on PKK in northern Iraq. Iraqi authorities said a Turkish air strike killed seven Iraqi civilians on Sunday. “Yesterday the Turkish ambassador was summoned here to the foreign ministry. He was handed a ... protest, diplomatic note about the continued bombing,” Zebari said in an interview. “We demanded an immediate stop to these air strikes.” The Turkish military said on Tuesday it had killed up to 100 PKK members in six days of air strikes in response to an escalation of guerrilla attacks after the collapse of efforts to negotiate a settlement of the 27-year-old conflict.

Turkey killed as many as 100 PKK members in air and ground bombardments on 481 targets in northern Iraq, the General Staff in Ankara said in a preliminary report on its website Tuesday. More than 80 PKK members were wounded, the Turkish military said, adding that the operations will continue.

Compiled from AP, Reuters and AFP by the Daily News staff.

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