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Iraqi Kurdish Leader Stands by Warning to Turkey


The Iraqi Kurdish leader has again warned Turkey not to interfere in northern Iraq, saying Iraqi Kurds would retaliate by interfering in Kurdish areas in Turkey if that happened.

Massoud Barzani spoke Tuesday in Arbil, the capital of Iraq's largely autonomous northern Kurdish region.

He said Iraqi Kurds would interfere only if Turkey did the same in mainly Kurdish northern Iraq.

Barzani also said his initial warning broadcast last Saturday by Al-Arabiya television was taken out of context. He said the remarks were originally recorded on February 26, and that he made them in response to Turkish threats.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded to Barzani's initial warning on Monday. He said Iraqi Kurds will - in his words - pay a heavy price if they interfere in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast.

Mr. Erdogan said Barzani "overstepped the line" and said Iraqi Kurds could be "crushed" under their own words.

Turkey sent a diplomatic note to Iraq's government over the incident.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack also criticized Barzani's remarks, saying they were not helpful and did not further the goal of greater Iraqi -Turkish cooperation.

Turkey is battling a Kurdish insurgency in its southeastern region. More than 37,000 people have been killed in the fighting since 1984.

Turkey is concerned that Kurdish rebels are using northern Iraq to launch attacks in southeastern Turkey. Ankara is also worried that any move toward independence by Iraqi Kurds will spark similar sentiments in Kurds in Turkey.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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