Turkey calls on Iraq to take action against Kurdish rebe

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ANKARA, Aug 16 (AFP) - 14h57 - Turkey on Monday called on Iraq to clamp down on armed Turkish Kurd rebels who have sought refuge across the border, while visiting Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawar warned Ankara against interfering in his country's internal affairs.

Turkey says thousands of rebels from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), recently renamed KONGRA-GEL, have found refuge in mountainous northern Iraq since 1999 when the group announced a unilateral truce in its bloody campaign for self-rule in southeastern Turkey.

The rebels are now believed to be infiltrating back into Turkey after the PKK/KONGRA GEL called off the truce in June, warning foreigners and investors to stay away from the country.

"I told President Yawar that we expected (Iraqi officials) to end the presence of PKK/KONGRA-GEL in Iraq at once and to ensure that the new Iraq does not give shelter to terrorist organizations," Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer told a press conference after talks with the Iraqi leader.

Yawar for his part expressed Baghdad's readiness to combat the rebels.

"We cannot ... turn a blind eye to a formation which endangers the security of our neighbours," the Iraqi president said.

But he added that Baghdad would like to develop its ties with Turkey in the framewok of "good neighbourly relations without any intervention in internal affairs".

Yawar was speaking after Sezer had also called on Baghdad to prevent Iraqi Kurds from taking sole control of the ethnically volatile northern city of Kirkuk, saying unrest in the oil-rich region would harm stability.

"I told President Yawar that an attempt by an ethnic group living in Kirkuk -- Turkmens, Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians and other Iraqis -- to claim the city would jeopardize the stability and order in Kirkuk and Iraq," the Turkish leader said.

Iraqi Kurds claim Kirkuk for themselves.

They argue that the city used to be overwhelmingly Kurdish in the 1950s before Baghdad started a deliberate campaign of settling thousands of Arabs in the city as part of its policy of Arabization.

The city, which also has a large population of Turkmen, a minority of Turkish origin backed by Ankara, is a hotbed of ethnic tension and plagued by frequent violence as Kurds force out Arabs.

Ankara fears that Kurdish control of the area's oil resources could further strengthen the Iraqi Kurds whom it suspects of plotting to break away from Baghdad.

Turkey is worried that such a prospect could fan separatist sentiment among its own restive Kurdish population in its southeastern corner, adjacent to northern Iraq.

Another issue dominating the talks was increased security measures for Turkish truck drivers and workers following the killing of a Turkish driver by hostage-takers and the abduction of several truckers delivering goods to the US army in Iraq.

"I conveyed in our meeting the importance of implementing effective measures in the shortest time possible to prevent such attacks from harming our economic and commercial ties," Sezer said, without elaborating.

Turkish officials had earlier said they are working on a series of measures to ensure a safe working environment in the country, which was one of Ankara's principal trade partners before the 1991 Gulf War.

Among the envisaged measures is a plan for Turkish drivers to ferry goods to areas between the northern towns of Zakhu and Mosul, considered relatively safe, where they would hand over the goods to Iraqi authorities for transfer to their ultimate destinations.

Yawar is scheduled to leave Turkey on Tuesday after a meeting with businessmen.


Source: AFP









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