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Turkey Pursues Diplomacy, Prepares Military


Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan says his nation will pursue diplomatic means to stop Kurdish rebels launching attacks from northern Iraq.

But Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday emphasized that Turkey will take action against the rebels if Ankara does not see results. Mr. Erdogan is in Britain to meet with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Tens of thousands of Turkish troops have been deployed to the Turkish-Iraqi border, as tensions mount with the rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK.

The United States and the United Kingdom issued a joint statement on Monday condemning recent PKK attacks.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband called on Kurdish and Iraqi authorities to take action against the rebels. The diplomats also stressed the need for Iraqi and Turkish officials to continue cooperating with each other.

Also Monday, the PKK issued a statement saying the rebels are willing to find a peaceful solution - if the Turkish military abandons all plans for an incursion into northern Iraq.

In a statement received by Reuters in Baghdad Monday evening, the PKK said it was ready to "extend the hand of peace again" if Turkey stopped all military operations against Kurdish fighters.

Kurdish rebels killed 12 Turkish soldiers in an ambush Sunday in Turkey's Hakkari province, near the Iraqi border.

Rebels say they captured eight soldiers. Turkey's military says it killed 32 rebels in a counter-offensive.

Last week, Turkey's parliament granted approval for military raids into northern Iraq to hunt for the rebels.

President Bush told Turkish President Abdullah Gul on Monday that Washington is committed to working with Turkey and Iraq to combat the PKK.

Also Monday, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani stated that the rebels would declare a ceasefire, but there is no indication as yet that the PKK has announced one.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan, who is in Kuwait, is expected to discuss the mounting crisis with Iraqi officials Tuesday in Baghdad.

The PKK has been fighting for Kurdish autonomy in southeastern Turkey since 1984. More than 30,000 people have died in the conflict.

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

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