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Officials: Turkey withdraws from Iraq

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071218/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq;_ylt=ArpYtsS9xfMnqKmYHQFRK5ys0NUE Officials: Turkey withdraws from Iraq By YAHYA BARZANJI, Associated
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 18, 2007
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071218/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq;_ylt=ArpYtsS9xfMnqKmYHQFRK5ys0NUE

      Officials: Turkey withdraws from Iraq
      By YAHYA BARZANJI, Associated Press Writer
      11 minutes ago

      KIRKUK, Iraq - Turkey sent hundreds of troops about 1
      1/2 miles into northern Iraq early Tuesday in an
      operation against Kurdish rebels but then withdrew
      them later in the day, Kurdish officials said.

      Jamal Abdullah, a spokesman for the regional Kurdistan
      government, told The Associated Press that the 300
      Turkish troops had withdrawn about 15 hours after
      entering Iraq about 3 a.m.

      Jabar Yawar, a spokesman for Kurdistan's Peshmerga
      security forces in Irbil, Iraq, told the AP that
      "today's Turkish military operation was a limited one,
      and the troops withdrew from Iraqi territory."

      Turkish officials didn't immediately respond to
      requests for comment about the withdrawal.

      The Iraqi government had called the incursion an
      unacceptable action that would lead to "complicated
      problems."

      The incursion came after U.S. officials said they
      provided Turkish officials with intelligence for
      airstrikes Sunday in northern Iraq against rebel
      positions, but also asked them to limit their
      operations.

      The incursion of about 300 troops — the first
      confirmed Turkish ground operation inside Iraq since
      the U.S. invasion of Iraq — did not represent a
      large-scale push that some feared could destabilize a
      relatively calm part of Iraq. In November, the Turkish
      military reportedly has massed 100,000 troops along
      the border.

      Yawar said the Turkish forces crossed into an area
      near the border with Iran, about 75 miles north of the
      city of Irbil. Abdullah described the region as a
      deserted mountainous frontier area.

      The Kurdish Workers' Party, or PKK, has battled for
      autonomy for southeastern Turkey for more than two
      decades and uses strongholds in northern Iraq for
      cross-border strikes.

      Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on a visit to
      Baghdad, said the U.S., Iraq and Turkey have a "common
      interest" in stopping Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq,
      but she cautioned against action that could
      destabilize the region.

      "This is a circumstance in which the U.S. has
      constantly counseled that we need an overall
      comprehensive approach to this problem and that no one
      should do anything that threatens to destabilize the
      north," she said.

      Washington is trying to balance support for two key
      allies: the Turkish government and the Iraqi Kurds.
      The U.S. remains opposed to any major Turkish military
      operation into northern Iraq — which could disrupt one
      of the calmest areas of Iraq.

      It was not clear how long the Turkish soldiers who
      entered Iraq on Tuesday would stay, but a Turkish
      government official in a position to know about the
      operation said they were sent as "reinforcements" to
      existing Turkish troops stationed further inside Iraq.

      "They are going there as reinforcements, they are not
      returning," the official said on condition of
      anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the
      media.

      About 1,200 Turkish military monitors have operated in
      northern Iraq since 1996 with permission from local
      authorities. A tank battalion has been stationed at a
      former airport at the border town of Bamerni and a few
      other military outposts were scattered in the region.
      Ankara rotates the troops there.

      Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the
      incursion "is not acceptable and will lead to
      complicated problems."

      "Iraq understands the threat the PKK represents, one
      that endangers Turkish security. But Iraq rejects any
      Turkish interference in Iraq," he said, adding that
      the Iraqi government was given no warning about the
      incursion.

      Asked about a reported clash between the Turkish
      troops and Kurdish rebels inside Iraq, Turkish
      President Abdullah Gul said: "From now on, whatever is
      necessary in the struggle against terrorism, it is
      being done."

      Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had said
      his country had no intention of violating Iraq's
      territorial integrity or harming civilians, "but the
      PKK terrorist organization's camps there are terrorist
      camps, they are our enemy."

      "They threaten our national unity and we are using our
      rights stemming from international laws to defend
      ourselves against this threat," Erdogan said.

      "We are taking all means that are available to us — be
      they political, diplomatic, military, social or
      economic — and are using them," he said. "At the
      moment the army is doing whatever is necessary. Our
      armed forces will continue to do whatever is
      necessary."

      Abdullah, the spokesman for the regional Kurdish
      government, was critical of the operation.

      "We are against any Turkish incursion inside Iraqi
      territory. This is regarded as a violation of Iraq's
      sovereignty," he said. "We don't expect that problems
      between Turkey and the PKK rebels will be solved by a
      military operation."

      In Sunday's airstrikes, as many as 50 fighter jets
      were involved in the attack, the biggest against the
      PKK in years. An Iraqi official said the planes
      attacked several villages, killing one woman. The
      rebels said two civilians and five rebels died.

      Iraq's parliament on Monday condemned the airstrike,
      calling it an "outrageous" violation of Iraq's
      sovereignty. Turkey said Sunday's attack used U.S.
      intelligence and was carried out with tacit American
      approval.

      The incursion began hours before Rice arrived in
      Kirkuk, a city that Iraq's Kurds call their Jerusalem
      in the oil-rich territory claimed by many. She met
      members of a civilian-military reconstruction unit and
      provincial politicians before flying to Baghdad.

      Sunni Arabs ended a yearlong political boycott earlier
      this month in Kirkuk — the hub of Iraq's northern oil
      fields — under a deal that sets aside government posts
      for Arabs. It was the biggest step yet toward unity
      before a referendum on the area's future.

      Kirkuk is an especially coveted city for both the
      Shiite-dominated Iraqi government in Baghdad and the
      Kurdish one in Irbil. Kurds want to incorporate it
      into their self-rule area, but the idea has met stiff
      resistance from Arabs and a constitutionally required
      referendum on the issue was delayed to next year.

      In an unrelated overnight raid, about 250 Iraqi police
      raided three villages near Hawija, 30 miles south west
      of Kirkuk and 150 miles north of Baghdad in an
      operation against suspected al-Qaida in Iraq
      militants, said provincial police chief Brig. Sarhat
      Qadir.

      In a six-hour raid that began at 1 a.m., the police
      detained 12 al-Qaida in Iraq suspects as well as
      another eight people, and seized a large weapons cache
      that included 2,500 mortar rounds, 350 Katyusha
      rockets, about 150 improvised bombs and about 500
      mines, Qadir said.

      Also on Tuesday, at least 11 people were killed when a
      suicide bomber blew himself up north of Baghdad,
      police said.

      A man wearing a suicide belt entered a popular cafe in
      Abbara village, about 45 miles north of Baghdad, a
      police officer said on condition of anonymity as he
      was not authorized to speak to the media.

      In addition to those killed, at least 18 others were
      wounded as they sipped on soda and tea when the bomber
      struck shortly after 7 p.m.

      Just six miles to the south in central Baqouba, a
      suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives into
      a police checkpoint, killing two and wounding 15
      others, police said.

      Both attacks took place in turbulent Diyala province,
      which despite the nationwide decrease in violence of
      nearly 60 percent in the last six months, has seen
      insurgent activity continue.

      In central Baghdad, a parked car bomb targeting a
      police patrol went off, killing four people and
      wounding seven others, police said.

      An officer speaking on condition of anonymity because
      he was not authorized to speak to the press said two
      police officers and two civilians were among those
      killed.

      ___

      Associated Press writer Hamid Ahmed in Baghdad
      contributed to this report.
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