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Top Kurdish Leader in Northern Iraq Calls for Dialogue With Turkey, Pledges to Defend Region


The president of the Kurdish region in northern Iraq says the region will defend itself from any aggression, following Turkey's approval of cross-border incursions into northern Iraq to fight Kurdish rebels.

In a statement Friday, Massoud Barzani also called for dialogue with Turkey about the situation. Turkey blames Kurdish rebels based in northern Iraq for deadly attacks in Turkey.

Barzani said Kurdistan is not responsible for the war between Turkey and rebels with the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. He said Kurdistan has not supported that war or the violence.

In a statement issued Friday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged both sides to demonstrate restraint at this delicate time. Ban also renewed his call to Iraq and the Kurdish regional government to ensure Iraqi territory is not used to mount cross-border attacks.

In Istanbul Saturday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the PKK camps in northern Iraq must be eradicated and rebel leaders handed over to Turkey. The Turkish leader welcomed a statement Thursday from Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari that Iraq wants to move against the PKK. But Mr. Erdogan also said the statement was "late."

Mr. Erdogan says the approval does not mean an attack is imminent, but gives authorization for such moves over the next 12 months.

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

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