Turks threaten to stay in north Iraq

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The Independent Online
The commander of Turkey's invasion force in northern Iraq says his troops will occupy some positions permanently. "We'll do whatever the Turkish government decides," Lieutenant-General Hasan Kundakci said. "But there are some critical points where we could stay and must stay."

Since last week, 35,000 Turkish troops have occupied a 25-mile-wide swath of Iraqi Kurdistan in an effort to wipe out guerrillas of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK). The Turkish government did not set a time limit for the operation, but some officials said it would be over in a matter of weeks.

To reduce the international impact of its invasion, Turkey is making it more difficult for journalists to enter northern Iraq. Reinforcing a previous ban on journalists not resident in Turkey crossing the frontier, officers at the main crossing point at Khabour said: "No one can come in without a pass." They did not know how the pass could be obtained.

Underlining the instability of Iraqi Kurdistan, a second war, separate from that between the Turkish army and the PKK, is close to boiling over.

Fighting has erupted between the two main Kurdish parties for control of the Kurdish "capital", Arbil, leaving dozens dead.

The struggle started last May, over control of transit taxes from trucks bringing cheap petrol from Iraq to Turkey through Kurdistan. The conflict between the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) of Massoud Barzani and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) of Jalal al-Talabani is now close to all-out war. The KDP has surrounded Mr Talabani's forces in Arbil and says they must withdraw from the capital, home to almost one quarter of Iraq's 3 million Kurds.

The KDP holds the PUK responsible for a car bomb in the town of Zakho earlier this year which killed 78 people. Kamal Kirkuki, a KDP leader, says that last week security men from his movement arrested PUK members who were planning a second bomb attack. Mr Talabani attackedIraqi forces last month, but counter-bombardment has forced thousands of Kurds to leave their homes.

The Turkish invasion and the war between the two Kurdish political parties are discrediting the Western policy of using the threat of air power to defend the region from reoccupation by Iraq.