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Turkey plans Kurdistan military operations

RIA Novosti

15/10/2007 15:10 ANKARA, October 15 (RIA Novosti) - The Turkish government is set to ask parliament to authorize a series of military operations against Kurdish insurgents in northern Iraq, the Hurriyet daily said on Monday

The Turkish military has prepared several scenarios of a cross-border operation in north Iraq to counter Kurdish rebels. The country has of late been amassing troops near Iraq, and shelling suspected rebel positions along the border.

The scenarios include an advance of 5-10 km into Iraq to gain full control of the border; pinpoint air attacks on suspected separatist bases, air raids on PKK strongholds in the mountains, and combined land operations and air attacks, Hurriyet reported on Thursday.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on television last Wednesday that the proposed operation would aim to clear the region of PKK fighters, who currently number about 3,500.

He said the government wanted parliamentary approval for the operation to remain valid for a year, so the army could "tackle problems as they arise."

Iraq has protested against Turkish military actions on its territory, calling them "aggression against Iraq and its territorial integrity." Erdogan responded that Ankara was not after Iraq's territory or sovereignty, but sought to counter the mounting terrorism threat emanating from the country.

Turkey recently closed its air space to planes flying to northern Iraq from various parts of Europe, a move that Hurriyet said indicates that Ankara does not intend to abandon its tough stance on the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), based in the north of Iraq.

Airlines flying to the north Iranian airport of Erbil now have to change course and fly via Cypriot and Syrian airspace.

Local media said the Turkish leadership was considering imposing sanctions against Massoud Barzani, president of the Autonomous Kurdish Government in Iraq and leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, accusing him of supporting the PKK. The party has been fighting for autonomy status in southeast Turkey for nearly 25 years. The conflict has claimed about 40,000 lives.

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