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Northern Iraqis Call for Peaceful Solution between Turkey and Kurdish Rebels


Later Monday,Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is meeting with U.S. President George Bush in Washington. They are discussing Kurdish rebels, who have been conducting border raids from northern Iraq into Turkey. Turkey and the United States are pressuring Iraq to help end the attacks from the Kurdistan Workers' Party rebels -- the PKK. VOA's Deborah Block spoke with people on the Iraqi side of the border about the situation.

Turkish warplanes recently shelled the Iraqi border village, Shiranish. No one was hurt, but a bomb left a gaping hole on a road. Turkey says it is only attacking areas where the rebels are hiding. However, some villagers say they get caught in the cross-fire.

One year ago, shopkeeper Henna Mahti came to Shiranish, after fleeing religious persecution against Christians in Baghdad.

He says the situation is very difficult. He says the Turkish shelling does not differentiate between fighters and civilians.

Maisan Jalil, 17, also lives in Shiranish. She says her family's home was burned down in Baghdad, because they are Christians. Now, she tearfully says it is even more frightening in Shiranish, never knowing when the shelling will come.

She says she hopes everyone in the world will hear her that Iraqis have lost their patience -- that they canot wait for permanent peace. She says enough is enough.

West of Shiranish, Zakho borders both Turkey and Syria. Here, the border tension seems far away and people continue with their daily lives lives -- shopping, eating at restaurants and going to their jobs.

Turkey has threatened sanctions on exports to Iraq to pressure the Iraqi government to strike at the rebels. At this Zakho marketplace, security guard Hassan Gouli says economic sanctions will not solve the border problem.

He says economic sanctions by Turkey would not change lives in Kurdistan. He says Kurds are ready to rely on bread and water, rather than relying on Turkish imports.

Yusef Morcos is selling clothes at the market. He thinks the border problem is between Turkey and the PKK rebels and should not involve Iraq. But he says the people in Kurdistan will fight back, if Turkey crosses the border.

He says the Kurds will defend themselves.

Hogar Zakholi owns a small food market in Zakho. Like many Kurds in Iraq, he hopes dialogue will pave the way for peace.

He says the Turks and PKK rebels should cooperate , not fight. He says dialog can solve the problems.

As thousands of Turkish troops are massed on the border ready for a possible incursion into Iraq, people at the Iraqi border say they hope the situation will be resolved through negotiation rather than arms.

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