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Saturday, July 24, 1999 Published at 11:31 GMT 12:31 UK

World: Middle East

Turkey asks Iran for soldiers' release

The Iranian army has reported several border incidents recently

Iran has arrested two Turkish soldiers after they strayed across the border between the two countries, Turkey has said.

Members of the security forces are quoted as saying that despite requests by the Turkish foreign ministry the Iranian authorities have not agreed their release.

There has been tension between the two neighbouring countries this week after allegations by Iran that Turkey carried out a series of border incursions and an air raid.

Turkish military sources deny that there has been fighting on the border.

But Iran on Friday protested to Turkey over what it describes as a renewed violation of Iranian territory.

Charge d'affaires summoned again

[ image: Iran's Foreign Minister Kharrazi: regular complaints]
Iran's Foreign Minister Kharrazi: regular complaints
The Iranian news agency reported that the foreign ministry in Tehran summoned the Turkish charge d'affaires, Avkut Sezgin, 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.

Tense relations

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 last 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".

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.

There have been diplomatic and press reports that the PKK has established bases over the border inside Iran, though Tehran denies that.

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