The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, backed by Iran, launched an offensive aimed at driving the rival Kurdistan Democratic Party from the strategic town of Shaqlawa.
The war restarted after the failure of a Foreign Office conference between leaders of the two parties in London last week. An attack by Jalal Talabani, leader of the PUK, on the same positions last year led Massoud Barzani, leader of the KDP, to call in the Iraqi army.
The KDP said in a statement that the PUK launched a "major offensive" against it, breaking the ceasefire brokered by the US, Britain and Turkey. The PUK confirmed the clashes, but said it was acting defensively.
Mr Talabani's attack has been joined by other enemies of Mr Barzani, such as the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), and Turkish Kurd guerrillas, whom he has been fighting in alliance with the Turkish army during its periodic invasions of Iraqi Kurdistan. His aim is to force Mr Barzani to evacuate his headquarters at Salahudin.
If he does, Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader, may intervene. If President Saddam were to engage in a prolonged intervention, President Bill Clinton would be under pressure to use US airpower.
- Patrick CockburnReuse content