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Turkey Rejects Ceasefire From Kurdish Rebels


Turkey's foreign minister, Ali Babacan, has rejected a ceasefire offered by Kurdish rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK, in northern Iraq. He met with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad Tuesday to press them to crack down on the rebels which Ankara says are staging attacks inside Turkey. VOA's Deborah Block reports from the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.

Turkish Foreign Minister, Ali Babacan, rejected the offer, saying a ceasefire is not possible when dealing with a terrorist organization.

His made his remarks as Turkey continued to mass forces along the Iraq border for a threatened military incursion which Ankara says could happen any time. But Turkish and Iraqi leaders say they are working to avoid any violence.

After talks with Iraqi officials Tuesday, Turkey's foreign minister said the use of force would be the last choice. He said if Turkey attacks in northern Iraq, it will only target the rebels.

"Turkey's a country which respects and defends the political unity of Iraq, the territorial integrity of Iraq. These are matters of principle for us. On the other hand, fighting against terrorism is another matter of principle for us, and these two principles are not conflicting with each other. In order to fight with terrorism, we have many tools: economic tools, cultural tools, political dialogue, diplomacy and military action," he said.

In a statement Tuesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said his country is shutting down the offices of the PKK, and will not allow the group to operate in Iraq.

Mr. Maliki said the group is a terrorist organization. He said Baghdad will do everything it can to halt the PKK's activities which are threatening Iraq and Turkey.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd, called the situation complex and said he hopes diplomatic efforts will prevail. "We agreed that the position we should take is a common position to fight terrorism wherever it is, and we will not allow any party or any group including the PKK to poison our bilateral relations. And also I reassured the minister that the Iraqi government will actively help Turkey to overcome this menace," he said.

Zebari said a high-level political and military delegation from Iraq will travel to Turkey soon.

Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with British leaders in London. He warned that Turkey cannot wait forever for the Iraqi government to act against the rebels.

Britain has backed the United States in urging the Turkish government to use restraint. The U.S. and Britain fear a Turkish attack could lead to widespread bloodshed in one of Iraq's few relatively peaceful areas.

Last week, PKK rebels killed 12 Turkish soldiers in an ambush in southeastern Turkey.

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