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Published:October 11th, 2007 06:48 EST
Turkish govt, Now We Go to Iraq

Turkish govt, Now We Go to Iraq

By SOP newswire

ANKARA (AFP) - The Turkish government is likely to submit a motion to parliament Thursday seeking approval for an incursion into northern Iraq to pursue Kurdish rebels, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said as deadly violence continued to plague the mainly Kurdish southeast.

Erdogan, however, hinted that no immediate military action was planned.

"We could send the motion to parliament tomorrow," he told CNN Turk television late Wednesday, adding that a vote on the text could take place next week.

The government, he said, is planning to seek a one-year authorisation for an incursion into northern Iraq, where about 3,500 militants of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) are taking refuge.

"It does not mean that everything will happen once we have the authorisation," he said. "We want to have the authorisation in hand so as to make a swift decision when it becomes necessary."

By law, parliament must authorise any deployment of Turkish troops abroad.

Ankara is exasperated by mounting PKK violence and Iraqi inaction against the group, listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

Ankara says the PKK enjoys free movement in northern Iraq and obtains weapons and explosives there for attacks across the border in Turkey.

It has accused the Iraqi Kurds, who run the region, of tolerating and even supporting the rebels.

Fifteen soldiers were killed in rebel attacks in southeast Turkey at the weekend, triggering a public uproar and turning up pressure for tougher government action.

There was more bloodshed Wednesday when a bomb was hurled at policemen inside a tailor's shop in Diyarbakir, the largest city of the mainly Kurdish southeast, killing an officer and injuring five other people, officials said.

Two police and a 12-year-old girl were among the wounded.

There was no immediate word on the perpetrators but Erdogan mentioned the incident among examples of recent PKK violence.

Erdogan also expressed frustration with what Turkey considers the US failure to help end the PKK safe haven in northern Iraq.

A series of consultations between a US and a Turkish representative, appointed to coordinate joint efforts against the PKK, "did not produce the expected results," he told CNN Turk.

"It turned out to be wasted time," he said. "They (the US) say they are against the PKK. If you are against, then you should do what is necessary."

Turkish criticism of the US has increased recently after it emerged that US weapons given to Iraq had ended up in PKK hands.

Washington on Wednesday again warned Ankara against unilateral action in northern Iraq as a bid by US lawmakers to pass a bill labeling the Ottoman massacres of Armenians as genocide put further strain on ties between the two NATO allies.

The United States is concerned that a Turkish incursion will destabilise a relatively peaceful region of conflict-torn Iraq and fuel tensions between Ankara and the Iraqi Kurds, who are staunch US allies.

Turkey and Iraq signed an accord last month to combat the PKK but failed to agree on a clause allowing Turkish troops to engage in "hot pursuit" against rebels fleeing into Iraqi territory, as they did regularly in the 1990s.

Turkish observers doubt whether the embattled Baghdad government, which has virtually no authority in northern Iraq, can cajole the Iraqi Kurds into action against the PKK.

The rebels have waged a bloody campaign for Kurdish self-rule in southeast Turkey since 1984 in a conflict that has claimed more than 37,000 lives.

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