Accessibility links

Breaking News

Turkish Foreign Minister Says Raid on PKK in Iraq Still an Option

Turkey's foreign minister says use of military force against Kurdish rebels in Iraq remains an option. VOA correspondent Challiss McDonough has more from our Middle East bureau in Cairo.

Speaking on a visit to Iran, Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan refused to rule out the possibility of using military force against rebels from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, known as the PKK, who have been operating out of northern Iraq.

He said Turkey has several options for fighting the PKK, including diplomacy, political and economic pressure, and finally, military solutions. He said all these options remain on the table.

Turkey has been increasingly frustrated by what it terms Iraq's failure to crack down on the Kurdish rebel group. Tens of thousands of Turkish troops have massed on the Iraqi border in preparation for a possible raid into Iraqi territory targeting the PKK.

Babacan said the Turkish people are, in his words, losing their patience. He called for the backing of Turkey's friends.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki voiced Iran's general support for Turkey's battle against the militants, but he did not explicitly say whether or not Iran would back a Turkish military strike on the PKK.

An Iranian-Kurdish militant group linked to the PKK has staged a series of deadly attacks on Iranian security forces during the past several months. Iran's military acknowledges having shelled rebel positions in Iraqi territory.

Iraqi and Iranian officials both said that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Iraqi President Jalal Talabani on the phone late Saturday to discuss the PKK problem. The officials said both leaders agreed that the rebels are harming the interests of all three countries involved - Turkey, Iraq and Iran.

An Iraqi government statement said they also agreed that the crisis should be solved peacefully.

After meeting with his Turkish counterpart in Tehran, Mottaki also criticized the recent U.S. decision to declare new unilateral sanctions against Iran, saying it will not solve any of the problems between the two nations.

He said Iran has always encouraged the United States to use a diplomatic approach in dealing with Iran, and other countries agree. He advised America not to, in his words, isolate itself internationally and regionally more than it already has.

The new U.S. sanctions target Iran's Revolutionary Guard, and designate its elite Quds division as a terrorist organization. It is the first time that a foreign military unit has been put on the official U.S. terrorism list. The sanctions also include three state-owned banks, several companies and some individuals.

Iran's foreign minister says the sanctions are doomed to failure.