July 23, 2006

Talabani: Iraq Shouldn't Be Launchpad For Turkey Attacks

AP

BAGHDAD (AP)--President Jalal Talabani said Iraqi territory should not be used to launch attacks against Turkey but insisted that Iraq's sovereignty should be respected.

The president's comments came a day after Turkish troops killed two Kurdish rebels in a clash near the border with Iraq and amid increasing threats by Turkey to launch attacks against guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in northern Iraq.

"It is necessary to solve the pending matters between Iraq and Turkey and securing the border between the two countries," Talabani said according to a statement released by his office. "Iraq's territories should not be used and exploited against Turkey."

The PKK has been battling for autonomy in Turkey's southeast for the past two decades in a fight that has killed more than 37,000 people. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

There has been escalating tension between Turkey and rebels. The deaths of 15 soldiers in three separate attacks last week prompted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to say the Turkish military was considering a cross-border operation to clear PKK bases in northern Iraq.

The U.S., which has some 130,000 troops in Iraq, is strongly opposed to such an operation.

"Iraq's sovereignty and independence should be respected," Talabani said when he received Turkey's acting ambassador.