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Iraqis Protest Against Possible Turkish Incursion


Thousands of Kurds and other Iraqis took to the streets in northern Iraq. They were protesting the Turkish parliament's decision Wednesday authorizing a Turkish military incursion across the border into Iraq. Turkey says rebels from the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, have been conducting raids into Turkey. VOA's Deborah Block is in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil and has more on the story.

Thousands of teenage schoolchildren and other protesters marched to the United Nations office in Irbil waving banners in Kurdish and English, saying understanding is better than killing.

Kurdish leaders have warned that a Turkish incursion into northern Iraq would threaten the relative stability of the region. They are calling on Ankara to seek peaceful means to resolve the issue of PKK attacks on Turkish forces staged from bases in Iraq.

"We want peace in Iraq in every kilometer in Iraq because this is the safest part of Iraq," said a 17-year-old high school girl marching in Irbil. "I am very afraid because we do not have anywhere else to go. This is our last safe place."

Iraqi officials have been urging Turkey not to resort to force.

Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh, a Kurd, was in London Thursday.

He says Iraq is serious about keeping good relations with Turkey and is against attacks from any group that operates from Iraqi soil. He adds that Turkey and Iraq's government are still in talks about the border problem. He urged Turkey to have more patience.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari told reporters Iraq wants to move against the PKK, but is unable to do so now because its military is tied down fighting insurgents elsewhere in the country.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the parliament's motion does not mean a military operation is imminent. But he says Turkey needs to be able to respond to a recent rise in bomb attacks it blames on PKK rebels based in northern Iraq.

The United States and Britain continue to urge the Turkish government to use restraint.

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