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Turkey Approves Military Move Against Rebel Kurds in Iraq


The Turkish Parliament has voted overwhelmingly to allow the government to launch military incursions into Iraq for one year. The motion is in response to attacks by separatists of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which Ankara says is using northern Iraq as a base. Dorian Jones reports for VOA from Istanbul.

The Turkish speaker of parliament announced that the motion to approve military incursions into Iraq for one year passed by a vote of 507 to 19.

The only dissenters were a small group of Kurdish nationalists.

The main political parties, which are deeply divided on many issues, united in the position that Kurdish PKK separatists based in northern Iraq must be crushed. Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek defended the motion.

He said legislators have must their minds over their emotions to reach a decision. He said Turkey's patience has run out.

Attacks in the past two weeks that killed more than 30 soldiers and civilians have been blamed on the PKK and have sparked widespread outrage in the country.

But Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that Turkish forces would not immediately launch an attack once the motion passed.

Political analyst Semih Idiz says the parliamentary vote has empowered the prime minister more than just militarily.

"The motion the government is seeking today is as much a diplomatic tool as a military one," he said.

The threat of a Turkish incursion into Iraq has fueled intense diplomatic activity. Iraqi Vice president Tariq al-Hashimi held talks Tuesday and Wednesday with Turkey's president and prime minister. Hashimi was positive after the talks.

"I think now a new environment, a new political environment, that we can build a new approach to defuse the current crisis," he said.

Just before the vote, Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki telephoned his Turkish counterpart. Baghdad is calling for emergency talks and has pledged to work with Ankara.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is also in Turkey for talks. Speaking at a news conference in Ankara, the Syrian president said Turkey has a legitimate right to stage a cross-border offensive against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq.

Washington is fearful that a Turkish attack could destabilize the most peaceful region of Iraq and has been lobbying Turkey not to intervene.

But the Turkish government is looking for action rather than words. Turkish officials claim that despite promises by the U.S. and Iraq to deal with the PKK, attacks against Turkish forces continue.

With Turkish troops massed at the border and no constitutional or political barrier remaining, time appears to be running out for a diplomatic resolution of the crisis.