Turks ignore UN's mercy call for Kurds

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The Independent Online
Turkey continued with its massive military onslaught against rebel Kurds yesterday, despite heavy criticism from abroad.

The Turkish foreign ministry said its troops would not leave until the rebels were " rendered inefficient", and heavy fighting continued. But Turkey's Foreign Minister, Tansu Ciller, was reported by the main Turkish news agency as saying she wanted the operation to be finished as soon as possible.

Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary-General, urged Turkey to pull out its troops at a news conference in Moscow on Saturday.

"As Secretary-General of the United Nations I cannot condone any transgression of the territorial integrity of any country, and I would encourage the Turkish army to withdraw as soon as possible," he said.

And in Baghdad, Iraq's United Nations co-ordinator said the operation would destabilise the region and might block implementation of Iraq's oil-for-food deal with the UN.

"We are concerned about this development since it may produce an even more volatile security situation in the north, the UN co-ordinator Staffan de Mistura said.

The British-based Mines Advisory Group said it was pulling out of Dohuk, in northern Iraq, because of security concerns.

The European Union, in a statement issued by the Dutch presidency, also called on Turkey to pull out.

Britain and France have both criticised the operation, and the attitude of the United States has been lukewarm.

Yesterday, the fifth day of the incursion, F-16 jets bombed rebel positions in the northern Iraqi mountains, while a column of Turkish tanks moved northeast along the road from Dohuk to Amadiya.

The Turkish military says that it has killed 902 guerrillas so far, for the loss of 12 of its own soldiers.

The Turkish government says that the operation was launched in response to a call from an Iraqi Kurdish group. Massoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has been generally in charge of the border areas of northern Iraq, while a rival Kurdish group has control further south.

"The operation will continue until the terrorist groups in the area are rendered ineffective and the area is controlled by Barzani's forces," a Turkish official said yesterday.

KDP forces have been seen working with Turkish forces. A spokesman for the anti-Baghdad Iraqi National Congress said that contacts inside the town of Arbil reported a gun battle there between members of the PKK and KDP late on Friday. Kurdish sources dispute the Turkish government's casualty count, but media access to the region has been curtailed and there is no way of verifying the figures.

Yesterday the German-based DEM news agency carried a call to arms from the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.

"I call once more to all our people to fight," DEM quoted Mr Ocalan as telling a Kurdish television channel.