Turkey demands PKK extradition

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The US military commander in northern Iraq said yesterday he plans to do "absolutely nothing" to counter Kurdish rebels who are staging deadly cross-border attacks into neighboring Turkey.

It was the most blunt assertion yet by an American official in the last few weeks that US forces should not be involved in the fight. The Bush administration has said repeatedly that the border crisis should be resolved through diplomacy.

Turkey's top military commander said Friday that Turkish leaders will wait until its prime minister visits Washington before deciding whether to mount a cross-border offensive into northern Iraq.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets President George W. Bush in Washington on Nov. 5.

"The armed forces will carry out a cross-border offensive when assigned," private NTV quoted Gen. Yasar Buyukanit as saying. "Prime Minister Erdogan's visit to the United States is very important. We will wait for his return."

Turkey's deputy prime minister, Cemil Cicek, said the government had demanded the extradition of Kurdish rebel leaders based in Iraq's north. During talks with a visiting Iraqi delegation, Turkish war planes and helicopters reportedly bombed separatist hideouts within the country's borders.

Turkey's state-run Anatolia news agency reported Turkish airstrikes on suspected rebel positions Friday and Ankara has threatened a large-scale offensive into Iraq if US and Iraqi authorities don't stop the rebels. On Friday, Iraq and Turkish officials held the latest in a series of diplomatic meetings aimed at ending the standoff.

Asked what the US military was planning to do, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon said: "Absolutely nothing."

Mixon said it is not his responsibility, that he has sent no additional US troops to the border area and he is not tracking hiding places or logistics activities of rebels from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, known by its Kurdish acronym PKK.