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Turkey-Iraq talks to begin soon

President Abdullah Gul says Turkey is losing "patience" with Baghdad over Kurd separatists in northern Iraq.

world Updated: Oct 25, 2007 21:46 IST

Turkey is losing "patience" with Baghdad over Kurd separatists in northern Iraq, President Abdullah Gul said on Thursday, ahead of talks with an Iraqi delegation seeking to avert a Turkish strike against the rebels.

"We respect the territorial integrity and unity of Iraq, (but) we are running out of patience and we will not tolerate the use of Iraqi soil for terrorist activities," Gul told a gathering in Ankara of 12 Black Sea countries.

"We are fully determined to take all necessary steps to end this threat," he said.

Last week, the Turkish parliament authorised the government to order a military incursion into northern Iraq against mountain bases used by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Press reports on Thursday spoke of stepped up military activity in southeast Turkey where the outlawed PKK has been fighting for self-rule since 1984.

Turkish troops near Yesilova deployed tanks and artillery to repulse an attack on Wednesday night by PKK rebels on a military outpost flush on the border with Iraq, newspapers reported. The reports could not be officially confirmed.

The accounts put the number of PKK fighters at between 40 and 100. Most newspapers said 30 rebels were killed.

Turkish F-16 fighter jets from the Diyarbakir air base that shelled PKK positions along the Iraqi border on Wednesday also hit targets inside Iraq, newspapers said, but again there was no immediate confirmation.

With tensions high on the ground, a seven-member Iraqi delegation was expected in Ankara at 5:00 pm, for talks aimed at avoiding a full-scale Turkish incursion.

Turkish officials gave no details regarding where and at what level the talks would be held, but Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said after a one-day visit to Baghdad on Tuesday that Turkey expected strong action from the Iraqis.

"I told Baghdad that the delegation must come with concrete proposals, that the visit would be futile otherwise," Babacan said. "We need more than just words."

Turkey accuses Iraq and the United States of failing to crack down on the PKK rebels using bases in northern Iraq as a springboard for cross-border raids against the Turkish military.

First Published: Oct 25, 2007 21:40 IST