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Iraq Seeks an End to Ground Battles Between Turkey, Iraqi Kurds

  • VOA News

Iraq's government is urging Turkey to withdraw its troops "as soon as possible" from northern Iraq, where Turkish soldiers are battling Kurdish rebels.

The Iraqi government says Turkey's military action threatens Iraq's sovereignty. Iraq is calling on Turkey to meet for talks about the crisis.

Iraq's ambassador to Turkey Sabah Jamil Omran told VOA Kurdish service on Sunday that the Iraqi Foreign Ministry has summoned the head of the Turkish embassy in Baghdad to discuss the situation in the Kurdish region.

Turkey says it launched a major ground offensive against Kurdistan Workers Party rebels Thursday to stop them from attacking Turkish civilians.

As of Sunday, the Turkish military said 112 rebels and 15 Turkish soldiers have died in the operation. The rebels have not disclosed their losses, and they say Turkey has suffered more casualties than it is reporting.

No civilian deaths have been reported, but Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari says Turkey has destroyed five bridges.

The prime minister of the regional government in Iraqi Kurdistan Nechirvan Barzani says that by attacking Kurdish infrastructure, Turkey appears to be trying to broaden the conflict. The Kurdish region's president Massud Barzani has appealed to President Bush to end the violence.

In Ankara, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pledged Turkish forces will withdraw once they destroy the PKK's support network. Mr. Erdogan says his forces' only target is "PKK terror."

The US defense secretary, Robert Gates, says he hopes Turkey conducts its military operation precisely, and keeps its incursion short in duration.

The outlawed PKK has been fighting for autonomy in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast since 1984. More than 30 thousand people have died in the violence.

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