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Iraq Demands Immediate Withdrawal of Turkish Troops


The Iraqi government has demanded the immediate withdrawal of Turkish troops, saying the five-day incursion is threatening their otherwise friendly relations. Daniel Schearf reports from the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.

Iraq's council of ministers says the Turkish military is violating Iraqi sovereignty by conducting the incursion into Kurdish areas of northern Iraq.

Ali al-Dabbagh, the spokesman for the Iraqi government, says the government rejects the unilateral Turkish incursion because it is a threat to their good neighborly relations.

The Turkish military crossed into Iraq to chase out Kurdish rebels from the Kurdistan Worker's Party. The rebels want autonomy for Kurds in Turkey and have used bases inside Iraq to launch attacks on Turkish forces.

Al-Dabbagh acknowledged the threat posed to Turkey by the rebels and said the government stands ready for dialogue.

About 20 percent of Turkish citizens are Kurds and in the southeast, bordering Iraq, they make up the majority. But Kurds in Turkey say their culture and language are oppressed.

Mahmoud Al-Mashhadani, president of the Iraqi Parliament, says they have asked Turkey to resolve the situation peacefully. He says the Turks should hold a referendum in south Turkey to give the Kurds the rights they want.

Iraq's Shiite parliament ministers issued a statement rejecting the Turkish military operation and supporting calls for their immediate withdrawal.

Elsewhere, a suicide bomber detonated in a bus near the northern city of Mosul, killing at least nine and wounding several others.

Meanwhile, millions of Shiites in Iraq gathered in the southern Iraqi city of Karbala for Arbaeen, a major Shiite commemoration.

Iraqi TV showed huge crowds of Shiites walking in procession, beating drums, and whipping and hitting themselves in ritual prostration.

More than 60 Shiite pilgrims were killed while making their way to Karbala this week, most of them from a Sunday suicide bombing.