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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Turkish troops ready for Kurdish operation on Iraqi border

RIA Novosti

18/10/2007 15:41

ANKARA, October 18 (RIA Novosti) - Some 40,000 strong Turkish troops comprising helicopter, artillery and special forces units are ready to launch a full-scale operation against Kurdish militants on the Iraqi border, Turkish media reported.

Turkey's parliament sanctioned military cross-border operations against around 3,500 Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq Wednesday following a government request earlier this week.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday parliamentary approval did not mean that the operation would begin immediately: "It will be conducted when the time is right, when necessary."

According to the Sabah newspaper, troops have been involved in operations against Kurdish militants in the Kato mountains in Turkey's southwest province of Sirnak.

The U.S. urged Turkey not to launch a cross-border offensive against Kurdish rebels and President George Bush said: "We are making it very clear to Turkey that we don't think it is in their interest to send troops into Iraq."

Iraq has protested against Turkish military action on its territory, calling it "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.

Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh said he was relying on the U.S. to stop the Turkish armed forces from invading: "We hope that the U.S. will help us prevent any intrusion of regional forces breaking our sovereignty."

He said the Turkish military intrusion will set a "dangerous precedent for the region." He also called on Turkey to develop bilateral cooperation with the Iraqi Kurdistan government.

"The elected Turkish government has a chance to develop economical and political cooperation with Kurdistan putting an end to the vicious circle of violence," he said, adding that the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) issue had a long history and could not be solved by force.

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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