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Thursday, February 18, 1999 Published at 23:47 GMT

World: Middle East

Iraq attacks Turkish action

Kurds have enemies in Iraq and Turkey

Baghdad has demanded the withdrawal of Turkish troops attacking Kurds in northern Iraq.

The Ocalan File
An Iraqi foreign ministry spokesman said the attacks were a "violation of Iraq's sovereignty".

The Turkish military launched an operation against Kurdish separatists based in Northern Iraq after the successful arrest of PKK rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, on Monday night.

Turkey hopes to finish off the PKK, which for years has been fighting for an autonomous homeland in Turkey.

[ image: 25,000 troops are on the attack]
25,000 troops are on the attack
BBC Middle East Correspondent Jeremy Bowen says 25,000 Turkish soldiers are on the attack.

Iraq strongly condemned "the new Turkish military aggression" and protested Turkey's "violation of Iraq's sovereignty, territory and airspace".

It demanded that the Turkish Government "immediately withdraw its invading troops from Iraqi soil and stop such practices that conflict with the UN charter, the principles of international law and neighbourliness".

Turkey's Anatolia news agency reported that Turkish fighter planes and helicopters attacked PKK strongholds as ground troops continued their drive against the rebels.

PKK rebels were reported to be fleeing towards the Iranian border, Anatolia said.

Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said: "These operations are carried out periodically because PKK elements try to penetrate from the border area."

[ image: The Turkish army has battled the PKK for many years]
The Turkish army has battled the PKK for many years
Iraq's angry demand came just days after Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz visited Turkey on a diplomatic mission to try to improve relations between the two countries.

Mr Aziz also tried, and failed, to persuade Turkey to stop its airbases to be used by planes carrying out no-fly patrols over northern Iraq. The zones were ordered after the Gulf War to prevent Iraqi military suppression of its Kurdish population.

The Turkish prime minister said the no-fly patrols were operating under the strict control of Turkish officers and that US jets were only striking Iraqi defence sites when attacked or targeted.

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