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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 February 2008, 19:56 GMT
'No timetable' for Turkey assault
Turkish troops on Iraq operation. Undated photo from Turkish military
Turkish troops launched their offensive into Iraq on Thursday
A senior Turkish official has said there is no timetable for an end to military operations against Kurdish PKK separatists in northern Iraq.

Speaking after a meeting in Iraq's capital Baghdad, Ahmet Davutoglu said they would continue "until terrorist bases are eliminated".

But Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the action was unacceptable and violated Iraq's sovereignty.

The US says it wants the offensive to end as soon as possible.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates is visiting Ankara and says he has already raised concerns at the highest levels.

Casualty figures

But Mr Davutoglu, chief foreign policy adviser of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, told reporters: "Our objective is clear. Our mission is clear and there is no timetable... until the terrorist bases are eliminated."

Ahmet Davutoglu (left) and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari 27.02.08
Turkey and Iraq want to end PKK threat, but disagree on tactics

Mr Zebari, speaking at the news conference with Mr Davutoglu after the talks, said Iraq wanted an immediate withdrawal.

"We condemn the terrorists and the PKK, but we also condemn the violations of the sovereignty of Iraq at the same time and we have to be very clear on that," he said.

Mr Zebari, himself a Kurd, added that the Kurdish regional government had expressed willingness to work with Turkey "to eliminate the threat from the PKK".

A lot of innocent Turks have been killed by these terrorists. But they [the Turks] can't solve that problem entirely by military means
Robert Gates
US Defence Secretary

The Turkish military has been attacking bases of PKK rebels, who want a homeland in south-east Turkey.

Following the latest clashes, the military said 77 rebels and five of its soldiers had been killed. It says 230 rebels and 24 soldiers have been killed since the offensive was launched on Thursday.

The PKK rebels say they have killed at least 81 Turkish soldiers. Neither report can be independently verified.

Intelligence help

Speaking to the BBC in Delhi before leaving for Turkey, Mr Gates said the Turkish military operation against PKK bases should be very short and very precisely targeted.

Then, he added, the Turks should withdraw back across the border.

"They cannot solve the PKK terrorist problem which is a very real one from the Turks' standpoint," he said.

"A lot of innocent Turks have been killed by these terrorists. But they can't solve that problem entirely by military means and they need to begin thinking about what they're going to do in the non-military arena."

Click to view a detailed map of the border region

He said the US had provided additional intelligence and reconnaissance help to Turkey, but would also be ready to offer non-military solutions to the problem.

More than 30,000 people have been killed since the PKK began their campaign in 1984.

Ankara says as many as 3,000 PKK members use northern Iraq as a safe haven.

The US, the EU and Turkey consider the PKK to be a terrorist organisation.

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US Defence Secretary Robert Gates





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