Turkey sends reconnaissance units into northern Iraq

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

BAGHDAD Turkey has sent troops into northern Iraq, officials said.

Iraqi officials said the Turkish Army sent reconnaissance units to the Kandil mountains over the last week. The Kandil mountains were believed to contain about 5,000 fighters of the Kurdish Workers Party. No clashes were reported.

Turkey had embarked on a military buildup along the border with Iraq, Middle East Newsline reported. But despite repeated threats Turkey has not ordered an invasion.

"We got some information that there is some movement on the border between Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey, and it seems some Turkish soldiers entered Iraqi Kurdish villages near Zakho," Fuad Hussein, an adviser to Kurdish President Masoud Barzani, said.

Officials said the Turkish military appeared to be preparing for a massive operation in Iraq. They said the United States, including President George Bush, has urged Ankara to exercise restraint.

"It is obvious that over the last two or three weeks, the Turkish Army has brought large numbers of soldiers to the Iraqi Kurdistan border," Hussein said.

The Baghdad government has examined options to counter any Turkish military invasion. A senior Kurdish official was expected to arrive in Irbil to discuss defensive measures.

"The main headquarters of the PKK is inside Turkish territory," Kurdish Affairs Minister Mohammad Ihsan said. "The Turkish government should solve its problems within its territory and not violate our territory."

Iran has also been operating against the PKK along the Iraqi border. Officials said the Iran Army has fired artillery toward Kurdish strongholds in northern Iraq.

For his part, Hussein expressed confidence that the United States would not participate in a Turkish invasion of Kurdistan. He said Washington maintains close relations with the Kurdish government.

"I think one must be realistic if one knows the area and the relationship between the United States and the Kurdish authorities here," Hussein said.

Copyright 2006 East West Services, Inc.

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