Iraq 'protests' Turkish incursion into N.Iraq

Iraq's government on Friday urged Turkey to respect its sovereignty after Turkish troops crossed the border to hunt for PKK militants, but said it expected the operation to be limited.

Iraq 'protests' Turkish incursion into N.Iraq
Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Kurdish Peshmerga security forces in Iraq's largely autonomous region of Kurdistan had stopped some Turkish ground troops from entering the country. There was no confrontation, he said.

He said the incursion was launched after Turkey obtained intelligence on movements of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants in a remote area inside the border of northern Iraq.

Several Iraqi officials and a senior military officer with coalition forces in Iraq tried to play down the operation, saying only a few hundred Turkish troops were involved.

In Ankara, a senior military source said thousands of Turkish troops had crossed to look for the militants. Turkish television said 3,000 to 10,000 soldiers had entered Iraq.

"Our position is Turkey should respect the sovereignty of Iraq and avoid any military action which would threaten security and stability," Dabbagh told Reuters.

"We do not expect these operations will expand because they are against the Iraqi and Turkish desire to have good relations."

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said he had summoned the charge d'affaires from the Turkish embassy in Baghdad to protest the incursion.

Turkish troops had crossed no further than 5 km (3 miles) inside the border, Zebari said.

"There has not been any major incursion or land invasion through the border," Zebari told Reuters.

Dabbagh said Turkish President Abdullah Gul had called Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, and told him the incursion would be limited.

But in a worrying sign, Turkish ground troops came face to face with Kurdish Peshmerga security forces on the border.

"The Peshmerga blocked the advance of some Turkish troops without any confrontation," Dabbagh claimed.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 22 Şubat 2008, 18:01