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Iraq, Iran Reopen Border In Kurdish Region

October 8, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Iraqi and Iranian authorities have reopened all border crossings in the Kurdish semi-autonomous north of Iraq that were closed following Iranian cross-border shelling.

"As a result of direct negotiations between Kurdish and Iranian delegations, all border crossings between the Kurdish region and Iran were officially reopened today, and indeed, the movement of people and goods through these crossings has returned to normal, as it was before the closure," Kurdistan regional government spokesman Jamal Abdallah told RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq today.

Speaking from Al-Sulaymaniyah, he also called the reopening of vital importance to the region. "We depended on importing more than 60 percent of our merchandise from Iran through merchants and businessmen in the region," Abdallah said. "The positive influence of this reopening was clearly noticed today, and even the [positive] psychological effect."

The agreement to reopen the borders follows the visit by senior leaders of the main parties in the unified Iraqi Kurdish government, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, to Iran on October 4.

The German news agency dpa quoted an official of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council, Mohammad Jafari, as telling the Iran state news agency IRNA that the Iraqi Kurds vowed "to prevent infiltration of terrorists into Iran." That was in apparent reference to the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK), which is said to seek autonomy for Kurds in Iran.

The border was closed amid tensions between Iraq and Iran over Iranian shelling of what Tehran said were PJAK positions in northern Iraq.

Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, demanded Iran stop the shelling during an official visit to Tehran on August 3. Zebari said at the time that the bombardment had forced as many as 3,000 Kurdish villagers to flee their homes in the Iran-Iraq border area.

(Radio Free Iraq correspondents Samira Ali Mandi and Nabil Khoury contributed to this report.)

Copyright (c) 2007. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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