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Last Updated: Feb 11, 2014 - 5:11:05 AM
Iraq rejects Turkish demands in anti-terror deal

ANKARA: Iraq refused to accept a key Turkish demand to send its troops into the neighboring country in pursuit of fleeing separatist Kurdish rebels, officials said Friday.

Both sides, however, signed a counterterrorism pact as a first step of cooperation on the issue. In Iraq, Kurdish authorities signaled they might agree to the deal after Ankara's demand to send troops into northern Iraq in pursuit of PKK rebels was dropped.

Turkish troops killed 20 rebels in operations over the past 15 days in Sirnak province, bordering Iraq, authorities announced Friday. No soldiers were killed, they said.

Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani apparently rejected the demand under pressure from the local Iraqi Kurdish administration, which strongly opposes any Turkish military intervention in northern Iraq.

"It was not possible to reach a deal on chasing Kurdish rebels, however, we hope this issue will be solved in the future," Turkish Interior Minister Besir Atalay said. "We are expecting this cooperation against terrorism to be broadened as much as possible."

Al-Bolani said discussions on the key demand would continue and said Iraq wanted to evaluate the best mechanism to tackle the problem.

Instead, the countries committed themselves to cracking down on activities of terrorist groups, stopping their financial and logistic support, capturing and extraditing members of such groups and preventing them making propaganda through media.

Al-Bolani hailed the deal - which came at the end of four days of negotiations - as an "important step" in countering terrorism and said "Iraq would not allow Kurdish rebels targeting Turkey."

"The PKK is an organization that aims to harm Turkey," al-Bolani said after the signing ceremony. "The Iraqi government cannot accept that its neighbors and especially Turkey, are subjected to danger that emanates from our country."

"You can be sure that the necessary steps will be taken in the coming period to prevent terrorist acts," he said.

But officials in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region complained that the agreement had been reached without their consultation.

"We are not committed to any security agreement connected to Kurdistan's security that was drawn up without any active participation from the regional government," Brig. Gen. Jabbar Yawar, an undersecretary for the ministry governing Kurdish protection forces known as Peshmerga.

Speaking in New York on Thursday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged the United States to act against Kurdish rebels who have escalated attacks on his country from bases in Iraq, warning that continued inaction was harming U.S. relations with its key Muslim ally.

Turkey has become increasingly frustrated with the U.S. for failing to live up to promises to crackdown on separatist guerrillas from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

Ankara has threatened to stage a military incursion into northern Iraq to eradicate rebel bases there if U.S. or Iraqi forces fail to take action. Earlier this year, Turkey massed troops on its rugged border with Iraq.

During a visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in August, both sides agreed to try to root out the rebels. But al-Maliki said Iraq's parliament would have the final say on the efforts.

Al-Bolani said Friday's agreement also needed to be approved by relevant authorities.

The guerrillas have been fighting for autonomy in southeast Turkey since 1984. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people. The PKK is considered a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union.

There have been reports of occasional Turkish shelling of rebel positions inside Iraq, and commandos are believed to periodically conduct "hot pursuit" missions across the border.

Turkey staged a series of major cross-border operations in the 1990s against suspected rebel hide-outs in the mountains.

Source: AP

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