Mon, Oct 22, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Twelve Turkish soldiers killed in clashes with PKK


Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said yesterday that Baghdad could not deliver Kurdish rebel leaders to Turkey, as the crisis over the Iraq-based fighters intensified with the killing of 12 Turkish soldiers.

"The handing over of PKK [Kurdistan Workers' Party] leaders to Turkey is a dream that will never be realized," Talabani, himself a Kurd, told a news conference in Arbil, the capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened an incursion into Iraq unless Baghdad clamps down on the rebels on its territory and turns over PKK leaders.

But Talabani said the Iraqis would be unable to succeed where the Turkish military had already failed.

"PKK's leaders are in Kurdistan's rugged mountains. The Turkish military with its mightiness could not annihilate them or arrest them, so how could we arrest them and hand them to Turkey?" he asked.

"Handing over Kurdish leaders is a dream which would not come true," he said.

His remarks, made alongside the president of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani, came as Ankara announced that 12 soldiers had been killed in clashes in southeastern Turkey that also left 23 rebels dead.

A leading PKK figure said that Turkish soldiers had been captured after fierce fighting on Saturday night as they tried to "infiltrate" Iraq from Turkey's Hakkari Province.

"There were clashes between the two sides. We killed a large number of them. We took a group of Turkish soldiers as prisoners," said Abdul Rahman al-Chadirchi, adding that the PKK would say how many later.

His claim was not confirmed by the Turkish military, although earlier reports in Turkey said that 10 soldiers were missing.

The Turkish parliament on Wednesday approved a motion authorizing military strikes into Iraq for a one-year period against PKK rebels using northern Iraq as a springboard for cross-border attacks.

A motion carried by a large majority in the Iraqi parliament yesterday condemned that decision but urged Baghdad to do more to rid the country of the PKK.

"The parliament calls on PKK fighters to leave Iraqi territories and asks the Iraqi government to take the required measures to stop PKK activities being launched from Iraqi territories," the motion said.

The motion was approved by 183 lawmakers of the 275-member national assembly.

In Ankara, Erdogan said that he, President Abdullah Gul and top ministers and military leaders would meet later yesterday to decide on how to react to yesterday's clashes.

The Turkish army has already sent additional troops to the region following the attack in which PKK rebels allegedly ambushed an infantry platoon.

Erdogan on Friday urged the Iraqi government to close "once and for all" the PKK camps, but judged "positive" recent vows by Baghdad to do so.

"What would satisfy us is the closure of all the PKK camps, including their training camps and the handover of their terrorist leaders," he was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency.

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