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Friday, July 23, 1999 Published at 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK

World: Middle East

Iran accuses Turkey of incursion

Turkish attacks on Kurdish targets are not restricted to inside Turkey

Iran has again protested to Turkey over what it describes as a renewed violation of Iranian territory.

The Iranian news agency summoned the Turkish charge d'affaires to demand an explanation for what it says was an attempted attack by Turkish troops in the border region of Qottur.

There have been no reports of any casualties in the attack which Iran says was repelled by Iranian border guards.

This is the second Iranian complaint in less than a week about alleged incidents near the border.

Turkey has denied both accusations but agreed to investigate.

Earlier this week Iran summoned the Turkish diplomat twice to protest about an alleged air strike by Turkish jets on positions inside the Iranian border on Sunday.

Tehran says at least five people were killed, including a senior officer of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and demanded compensation for the attack, which it says runs "contrary to all international rules".

Tense relations

BBC Middle East correspondent Jim Muir says Turkish forces are actively engaged in trying to root out Kurdish separatists who have bases in northern Iraq - which borders the area of Iran where this incident is said to have taken place.

[ image: Iran's foreign minister Kamal Kharrazi has seen a lot of Turkey's charge d'affaires recently]
Iran's foreign minister Kamal Kharrazi has seen a lot of Turkey's charge d'affaires recently
There have been diplomatic and press reports that the PKK has established bases over the border inside Iran, though Tehran denies that.

One top Iranian official suggested Ankara could be seeking to rekindle the "unprecedented" unrest which hit the Islamic Republic earlier this month.

Former President Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani said he did not exclude the possibility that Ankara was seeking to "back the troublemakers" behind the six days of escalating student protests - the worst unrest to hit the regime since the aftermath of the 1979 revolution.

Reacting to last week's street riots in Tehran, the secular Turkish Prime Minister, Bulent Ecevit, made some scathing comments about Iran's Islamic system.

He described the student demonstrations as a "natural" reaction to an "oppressive regime," prompting a formal protest from Tehran.

Accusations of Iranian support for dissident Kurds and Islamists in Turkey have also long been a bone of contention.

Iran is also extremely wary of Turkey's growing military and political relationship with Israel, as well as its close ties with Washington.

There are estimated to be approximately 10 million Kurds in Turkey and about half that nunmber in Iran.

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