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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 June 2007, 21:38 GMT 22:38 UK
Iraq minister offers Turkey talks
Turkish military vehicle leaves Sirnak, going towards the border with Iraq
Turkey has been building up troops along the border
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari has told the BBC his government is ready to discuss with Turkey how to deal with the PKK Kurdish separatists.

He was speaking after Iraq protested to Turkey about recent shelling into mainly Kurdish areas in northern Iraq.

Turkey has deployed tanks and thousands of troops to its border, and says it has the right to take action against PKK guerrillas in northern Iraq.

A landmine killed three soldiers on the Turkish side of the border on Saturday.

The blast in Sirnak province also injured three soldiers and, according to military sources, was detonated by Kurdish separatists as a military convoy passed.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari
We are against any military interventions
Hoshyar Zebari
Iraqi Foreign Minister

A similar attack on Friday left four soldiers dead.

Sirnak province is situated on the mountainous border with Iraq.

There were a series of anti-PKK rallies, organised by official bodies, across the region on Saturday.

Marchers in the town of Sirnak chanting "Damn the PKK" and "The Homeland will not be divided", and Diyarbakir, the largest city in the region, held a similar rally.

Negotiable issues

Mr Zebari told the BBC's Arabic Service that Iraq was ready to talk about the activities of the PKK in northern Iraq, and other matters of concern to Turkey.

Funeral in Izmir of soldier killed near Sirnak, 25 May 2007
A number of soldiers have died in bomb attacks in recent weeks

"We are open to dealing with these positively," he said, "but not via an intensive and large-scale bombardment of border areas."

Iraq says the cross-border attacks have caused widespread damage, and undermined relations between the two countries.

"We are against any military interventions or violations of borders or the regional security, and all issues are negotiable and can be resolved through dialogue," Mr Zebari added.

Turkey has not confirmed any cross-border shelling but it has been building up forces along the border with Iraq.

Speculation grows that Ankara could mount a raid in Iraq on PKK rebels sheltering there who it blames for recent attacks in Turkey.

State-to-state

The Iraqi foreign ministry on Saturday summoned Turkey's charge d'affaires to voice its protest.

Turkish army exercises near Cizre
Turkey has been holding military exercises in the region

The Iraqi protest letter is clearly aimed at keeping the rising tension as an affair to be dealt with between the two states and not between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds, the BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says.

The Iraqi protest comes amid a major build-up of troops and tanks on the border with northern Iraq.

Turkey says some 4,000 militants have bases there and are able to mount cross-border attacks.

On Thursday, several areas close to the border in south-eastern Turkey were declared "temporary security zones".

Attacks by the banned PKK, which has been fighting for an ethnic homeland since 1984, have been increasing in recent weeks.


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