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Iraqi Kurdistan Warns Turkey, Urges Baghdad and Washington to Stop Incursion


The Kurdish regional government of Iraq has warned Turkey not to target civilian areas during its military operations there against Kurdish rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK . Kurdish officials are asking for Baghdad and Washington to help stop the conflict. Daniel Schearf reports from the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.

The president of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, issued a statement Saturday warning if Turkish forces target civilians or damage any civilian infrastructure they will face large-scale resistance.

Mr. Barzani said his Kurdish security forces, called the Peshmerga, would not interfere in Turkey's fight against Kurdish rebels inside Iraq.

Media reports over the weekend said the Peshmerga forced some Turkish soldiers to return to their bases after they strayed too far into Iraq.

However, Peshmerga spokesman Jabar Yawer denies there was any face-off between Kurdish and Turkish troops. Yawer says there has been no communication between the Peshmerga and Turkish troops. He says there are no Peshmerga in the areas of conflict, only Turkish soldiers and PKK fighters, so there are no problems between Turkish and Peshmerga forces.

So far there are no reports of civilian casualties, but Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Saturday the Turkish military has destroyed five bridges near the Turkish border despite promises to avoid such damage.

He said the Turkish incursion risks destabilizing the region, and he called for an immediate withdrawal of Turkish troops.

The Turkish military sent tanks and hundreds, perhaps thousands, of troops into northern Iraqi Kurdistan Thursday evening in its biggest raid into Iraq in years.

Turkey says the incursion is to prevent Kurdish PKK fighters from launching attacks into Turkey.

Kurdish officials have asked Baghdad and Washington to intervene to stop the Turkish action. Tariq Jawhar is a spokesman for the National Assembly of Kurdistan.

He said Kurdish officials want Iraq's federal government and the U.S. to interfere to stop what he called an aggression and to seek peaceful negotiations to solve the problem between Iraq and Turkey. He said such military operations are a clear violation of Iraq's territory.

The PKK has been fighting for autonomy in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast since 1984. Turkey, the United States and the European Union have designated the group a terrorist organization.

Turkey and the PKK have released conflicting casualty figures from the current fighting, with the PKK claiming it has killed a larger number of Turkish soldiers than the Turkish military has reported.

The figures have not been independently verified.

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