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Turkey Says It Will Not Wait Forever to Attack Rebel Kurds


Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayipp Erdogan says his government cannot wait forever for neighboring Iraq to deal with rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party who are using northern Iraq as a safe haven from which to launch attacks against Turkey. The prime minister issued the warning after meeting with his British counterpart, Gordon Brown, in London and follows a rebel ambush on Sunday in which at least 12 Turkish soldiers were killed and eight are missing and presumed kidnapped. VOA's Sonja Pace has details from the British capital.

Speaking at a joint news conference after their talks, Prime Minister Erdogan said he has held numerous talks with Iraqi leaders in the past and so far to no avail. He warned that if Iraq does not deal with the PKK rebels inside its territory, Turkey will.

Turkey cannot wait forever, the prime minister said. He said Turkey has no territorial designs on its neighbor and fully supports the Iraqi people. But, he warned his government has the right and the mandate from parliament to launch cross border attacks against PKK bases in northern Iraq.

Mr. Erdogan did not specify when such attacks might take place.

Turkey has about 10,000 troops along its border with Iraq and the build-up continues. The threat of a large-scale incursion increased dramatically after Sunday's rebel ambush near the Iraq border.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown strongly condemned the attack and promised support for Turkey.

"We condemn absolutely and unequivocally the terrorist violence of the PKK," he said.

Mr. Brown said Britain appreciates the restraint Turkey has thus far shown. The United States has also called for restraint, expressing fears that an incursion into northern Iraq could create chaos in this one relatively stable area of Iraq.

The Turkish and Iraqi foreign ministers met in Baghdad to discuss the issue as well, and Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd, resolved to deal the PKK issue.

The PKK took up arms against the government in the mid 1980's with the aim of establishing a Kurdish homeland in southeastern Turkey. More than 30,000 people have been killed in the conflict since then.

Turkey says it will pursue diplomatic efforts. But speaking in London, Prime Minister Erdogan said his government is looking at the military option and he said he hopes Turkey's friends will understand if it exercises that right. The prime minister's final warning: "We will take any action necessary."

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