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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Kurd fighters ready for talks with Turkey, but will not down arms

RIA Novosti

24/10/2007 16:32 CAIRO, October 24 (RIA Novosti) - The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is ready for dialogue with Turkey, but its fighters do not intend to lay down their arms, a PKK spokesman said on Wednesday.

He said the PKK has been observing a two-year old armistice, but as the Turkish army continues to attack, PKK fighters have no choice but to defend themselves.

Turkish army units earlier crossed the Iraqi border in a special operation against Kurdish militants, local newspapers said on Wednesday.

The Yeni Safak newspaper reported that Turkish commandos supported by helicopters were chasing PKK militants, and F-16 Falcon fighter-bombers and artillery were delivering pinpoint strikes on militant bases about 50 kilometers (30 miles) deep into Iraqi territory.

Zaman, Turkey's third largest newspaper, said the Turkish Armed Forces had stepped up their bombardment of the Iraqi border as part of an operation launched in retaliation for Sunday's terrorist attack that killed 12 soldiers and wounded 16 others.

The newspaper cited a government spokesman as saying that the U.S. had been informed about the start of the cross-border operation, although Turkey's military has not confirmed the media reports.

The Turkish parliament sanctioned last week military cross-border operations against the PKK, based in north Iraq, following an earlier government request. The PKK says it is currently holding several Turkish soldiers hostage.

Turkey's military said on Monday that eight military personnel were missing following clashes with Kurdish fighters on the Iraqi border. 34 Kurds and at least 12 Turkish servicemen were killed last Sunday in an ambush by Kurdish militants.

Turkey's National Security Council is meeting on Wednesday to discuss further action against the PKK, as well as the reaction of the U.S. and neighboring countries to the incursion into northern Iraq.

The PKK, listed by the U.S., NATO and the EU as a terrorist organization, has been fighting for autonomy status in southeast Turkey for nearly 25 years. The conflict has so far claimed about 40,000 lives.

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