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Turkish General: US Orders Arrest of PKK Leaders in Iraq

Turkey's deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Ilker Basbug speaks during a media briefing in Ankara in this Jan. 2004 file photo
A top Turkish general says the United States has ordered the arrest of Kurdish rebel leaders in Iraq.

General Ilker Basbug, the deputy chief of the General Staff, told Turkish media executives Tuesday in Ankara that Washington has given "direct orders" to capture leaders from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The general also said Turkey has the right to stage cross-border attacks against Kurdish rebels in Iraq, if the Iraqi government fails to act against them.

A Pentagon spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Barry Venable, refused to comment on General Basbug's statement, but he told reporters the United States is committed to eliminating the PKK threat on Turkey from Iraq. He also said whenever U.S. troops encounter terrorists in Iraq, they arrest or detain them.

The United States includes the PKK on its list of terrorist organizations.

The Turkish government has battled Kurdish separatists in southeastern Turkey since 1984, and is concerned that Kurdish autonomy in Iraq could inflame separatist desires among its own Kurdish population.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.