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Iraq Calls for Kurd Rebels to Lay Down Their Arms or Leave

Iraq's parliament has condemned Turkey's threats to launch an incursion into northern Iraq to crack down on rebel Kurds. And Iraq's president has ordered rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party to lay down their arms or leave Iraq after the rebels ambushed a military unit in Turkey. VOA's Deborah Block has more form the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.

The Kurdish rebels, known as the PKK, killed 12 Turkish soldiers in an ambush in southeast Turkey. Turkey says its troops killed 23 rebels during the fight.

Later, Iraq's parliament condemned the use of force to solve the dispute and urged Turkey to work with the Iraqi government to deal with the crisis. But the parliament also called for the Baghdad government to stop PKK attacks from being launched from Iraqi territory.

In an effort to solve the crisis, Iraq's President Jalal Talabani met with Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani in the Kurdish region's capital, Irbil.

At a joint news conference, President Talabani, a Kurd, ordered the PKK rebels to lay down their arms or leave Iraq. But said he would not hand them over to Turkey. He said if the Turkish military could not defeat them, how could Iraq arrest them and hand them over to Turkey.

Mr. Talabani also reiterated that Iraq wants to solve the rebel problem through discussion rather than violence.

"We are against war," said Jalal Talabani. "We are not expecting a war against our people in Turkey. We hope that wisdom will be the leader in this conflict."

Kurdish president Massoud Barzani warned that the semi-autonomous region would defend itself from attacks from neighboring countries, but he said he hopes the rebel situation with Turkey will be reconciled.

He says Kurdistan wants peace and dialogue with Turkey. He adds that his government will help both the Turks and rebels settle the problem as long as Turkey does not threaten Kurdistan.

Turkey has pledged strong action against the rebels. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his government is ready to conduct cross-border military strikes against PKK bases in northern Iraq. But as negotiations continue, those strikes do not appear to be imminent.