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Vol. 71/No. 25      June 25, 2007

Turkish forces shell villages in Iraqi Kurdistan
(front page)
WASHINGTON, June 12—Turkish military forces bombarded several Kurdish villages in northern Iraq near the Turkish-Iraqi border yesterday. Ankara said the operation is aimed at the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a Kurdish group that has been fighting for decades for sovereignty in southern Turkey.

U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice warned the Turkish government against any "robust" military action across the border, indicating Washington's concern that Ankara's attacks could subvert U.S. efforts to establish a stable client regime in Baghdad. Kurds in Iraq have been Washington's strongest ally in the country. The region they largely inhabit, known as Iraqi Kurdistan, is the most stable part of a country ravaged by communal killings, in a war that has raged since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and subsequent occupation by imperialist forces.

Jabbar Yawar, a spokesman for Kurdish security forces, told Agence France-Presse that several villages were bombarded. "The shelling lasted for 45 minutes and was aimed at villages in the Zakho and Amadiyah regions of Dohuk," he said.

The Iraqi government lodged an official complaint with Ankara. "The foreign ministry delivered a letter to the chargé d'affaires of Turkey protesting the bombardment of Iraq around Dohuk and Arbil, which caused huge damage, fire, and spread panic among the people," a ministry statement said.

Ankara accuses Iraqi Kurdistan's regional government of providing safe haven and weapons to the PKK. The Turkish rulers also fear that an autonomous Kurdistan on their border encourages national aspirations among millions of Kurds in Turkey.

On June 7 Iraqi Kurdistan's regional president, Massoud Barzani, and Iraq's president, Jalal Talabani, rejected Ankara's demand to take action against the PKK camps. Barzani and Talabani head the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) respectively, Iraq's main Kurdish parties.

The Turkish government has ignored a PKK offer to halt hostilities if its forces stop attacking PKK camps. Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, told AP that the Turkish military should focus on fighting the PKK within Turkish territory. Turkey's army chief has said an incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan is necessary, indicating divisions among Turkey's rulers, who are under pressure from Washington.

Rice's warning that it's "not good for anybody for a robust move across the border" suggested that Washington would not oppose limited actions against the PKK. In an attempt to stem the flow of PKK forces, Ankara already has 1,500 troops several miles inside northern Iraq along a 240-mile border

Turkey's rulers are also hostile to efforts by Iraqi Kurds to incorporate the oil-rich city of Kirkuk into its autonomous region. Ankara has appealed to Washington and Baghdad to call off a referendum on the issue, scheduled for the end of this year. Barzani and Talabani have said Kurds will not accept a cancellation.

According to AP, Iranian government forces have clashed with Iranian Kurdish fighters who have bases in a remote, mountainous area of Iraqi Kurdistan. Iranian forces reportedly participated in a June 8 overnight shelling of Iraqi Kurdish villages. The PUK said artillery shells hit some areas in the Sidikan area of Erbil province—where the borders of Iraq, Iran, and Turkey converge—and that nine villages were affected.

Meanwhile, in southern Iraq the General Union of Oil Employees in Basra said striking workers had agreed to return to work and resolve outstanding issues through talks. The announcement came after Baghdad agreed to set up a committee to address workers' demands for better pay and working conditions. Shipments of oil and gas supplies were cut off to Baghdad and cities in southern Iraq when 600 workers struck June 4.  
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