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Iraq Vows Crackdown on Kurdish Rebels


Iraq's leaders vowed to crack down on Kurdish rebels, using northern Iraq as a staging point to launch attacks into neighboring Turkey, while Turkey is leaving its options open to possible retaliation. Pressure for action against the rebels mounted as Iraq, its neighbors and major international powers and organizations met in Istanbul to discuss Iraq's own stability. VOA's Sonja Pace has details from the conference site.

Speaking at an international conference on Iraq here in Istanbul, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki promised action against the Kurdistan Workers' Party, the PKK.

He said his government would close all PKK offices in Iraq and cut PKK's support lines including at airports and borders and through increased checkpoints. Mr. al Maliki also said Iraq would track down PKK members inside Iraq.

Iraq's promise to get tough comes amid strong pressure from conference host Turkey and from the United States.

Turkey has threatened to launch its own military incursion into northern Iraq to destroy rebel bases, and is vowing economic sanctions against those supporting the PKK.

Speaking to journalists as the conference ended, said concrete actions would become evident.

"No one should be under any illusion the Iraqi government is [not] very serious to cooperate actively and to lend its active support to the Turkish government in combating, in containing, in diminishing the PKK terrorism," he said.

There were reports from northern Iraq Saturday that the regional government there had closed the offices of a political group linked to the PKK.

But, during the final news conference in Istanbul, Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babcan gave no indication that this was enough. He said all options remain on the table for a Turkish response to the rebel threat.

Babacan said there are many ways to combat terrorism and he said Turkey would explore all options and decide whether, when and how to use them.

US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice met with her Turkish and Iraqi counterparts on the sidelines of the Istanbul conference to discuss the PKK issue. Washington has been urging restraint.

In an interview with VOA after the conference, Foreign Minister Zebari said the talks proved useful.

"We believe during this conference we managed to take the sting out of this tension, to calm down the situation, to rationalize the situation, not to move into rash actions," he added. "The situation is far more complicated than many people think, and we really made a strong point to everybody that any major military incursion will destabilize the one single, most stable part of Iraq."

The Istanbul meeting brought together ministers and senior government representatives from Iraq, its neighbors and world powers such as Britain and the United States. It was designed to discuss ways to help stabilize Iraq, but the PKK issue seemed to overshadow all else. The next Iraq neighbors' meeting is scheduled to be held in Kuwait.

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