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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 October 2007, 20:15 GMT 21:15 UK
Iraq urges Kurdish rebels to go
Hoshyar Zebari
Hoshyar Zebari said PKK rebels were unwelcome on Iraqi soil
Iraq has called on Kurdish rebels to leave the north of the country as soon as possible, to avoid the area being targeted by the Turkish military.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the separatist PKK group was operating without permission from regional authorities.

He was speaking a day after Turkey's parliament approved cross-border operations against PKK rebels.

Iraqi Kurds staged protests against Turkey's threats of invasion.

In the first Iraqi reaction to the vote in Turkey's parliament, Mr Zebari called on PKK rebels, who are fighting for an independent Kurdistan, to leave.

"Our formal request is that they leave Iraqi soil and leave Iraq for its people and do not bring us more problems than we're already suffering," Mr Zebari, an ethnic Kurd himself, said in an interview with Reuters news agency.

He said his government wanted to push the PKK out of the country but lacked the military power.

"Iraqi security forces are battling the terrorists in the streets of Baghdad and many other key cities, and are overstretched," Mr Zebari said.

"To release these forces really would create a vacuum."

US appeal

Earlier, the Kurdish regional government urged Turkey not to launch any attack on PKK rebels.

PKK rebels in northern Iraq
PKK fighters have launched attacks on Turkish territory from Iraq

"We do not want any confrontation with Turkey," it said in a statement.

The United States called on Turkey on Thursday "to refrain from actions inside Iraq that could cause an international crisis".

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Washington was working with both the governments of Iraq and Turkey to rein in the activities of the PKK.

Mr Gates said he would be travelling to Turkey next week for talks with the Turkish defence minister.

Meanwhile, Kurds in Iraq protested against the Turkish parliament's decision.

Thousands marched in the northern cities of Irbil and Dahuk to express opposition to any attack by Turkish forces.

In Irbil, they carried banners denouncing possible cross-border raids.

Some of the banners read: "We will resist the Turkish" and "We are in the world of dialogue, not war".

In Dahuk, about 1,500 protesters held a rally.

"We want Turkey to realise that we want to live in peace," one student told Reuters news agency.

Iraq warns Turkey against raids
15 Oct 07 |  Europe
Turkey condemns US Armenia vote
11 Oct 07 |  Americas
Profile: The PKK
15 Oct 07 |  Europe

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