Turkey demands Kurd rebel extraditions

ANKARA, Turkey – Turkey demanded the extradition of Kurdish rebel leaders based in Iraq’s north, the deputy prime minister said Friday after meeting with an Iraqi delegation. Turkish war planes and helicopters, meanwhile, reportedly bombed separatist hideouts within the country’s borders.

Despite repeated Turkish demands for more action from both the United States and Iraq, U.S. Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon said he plans to do “absolutely nothing” to counter Kurdish rebels operating from the region.

The top American military commander in northern Iraq said it is not the U.S. military’s responsibility to act. Mixon also said that he has sent no additional American troops to the area and is not tracking hiding places or logistics activities of the rebels from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known by its Kurdish acronym PKK.

He also has not seen Kurdish authorities move against the rebels either, Mixon told Pentagon reporters by videoconference from a U.S. base near Tikrit in northern Iraq.

“I have not seen any overt action (by Kurdish authorities) … But those are the types of activities that are managed and coordinated at higher levels than my own,” he said.

Iraq’s defense minister and other ranking members of the government held talks with Turkish officials to try to defuse tensions over the PKK rebels.

“We gave a list of PKK leaders and asked for help from Iraq,” Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek told CNN-Turk television.

CNN-Turk television, citing unnamed Iraqi officials, said Turkey asked for the extradition of 153 PKK members. The station also said Iraqi officials claimed they could hand over at least 18 PKK members. Iraqi leaders have said they had no power to go after Kurdish rebel leaders in mountainous areas and capture them.

Cicek, however, said Turkey wanted the arrest of all PKK members “to finish off the group.” Turkey believes that the anti-rebel measures proposed by the Iraqi delegation were unsatisfactory, according to private NTV and CNN-Turk, which cited unnamed Foreign Ministry officials.

The state-run Anatolia news agency reported that Turkish aircraft attacked suspected rebel positions that were detected during reconnaissance flights. There were no reports of guerrilla casualties.

Cicek reiterated Turkey’s determination to carry out an offensive if the U.S.-backed Iraqi government and Iraqi Kurdish administration, which is in charge of security in northern Iraq, do not crack down on the rebel group.

“We will use our right stemming from international laws until the end,” he said.

He said Turkey’s struggles with the PKK go beyond the rebel group’s estimated 3,000 to 3,500 members.

“Today, the PKK is a group that receives the most support, logistical aid, weapons and propaganda support from several countries,” he said, without naming any countries.

Cicek, talking about past military incursions, also said the main rebel base was located deep inside Iraqi territory on Mount Qandil and was hard to target in a ground offensive.

“There has been raids by the Air Force against Qandil but there has been no ground attack, it sits too deep inside Iraq, it is not easy,” Cicek said.

The Iraqis’ visit came before a regional summit next week when Turkey is scheduled to host foreign ministers for a meeting about Iraq.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has proposed a meeting involving the United States, Iraq and Turkey during the Nov. 1-3 conference in Istanbul. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to go to Washington almost immediately afterward to meet with President Bush.

Turkish officials have been frustrated by the failure of both U.S. forces in Iraq and Iraqi forces to stop the Kurdish attacks, which have claimed 42 lives in Turkey this month alone. If they do not act soon, Turkey has threatened to send troops across the border.

Washington opposes a unilateral military move by its NATO ally, fearing it would destabilize Iraq’s north.

Erdogan said Thursday the U.S. desire to preserve the north’s relative stability would not deter Turkey.

The Turkish military said it spotted a “group of terrorists” near the border with Iraq on Tuesday and fired on them with tanks, artillery and other heavy weaponry. It said the group was preparing for an attack.

AP Television News filmed Turkish troops on foot patrol, sweeping for mines and securing the roads while a military helicopter flew overhead in the province of Sirnak near the border.

The PKK is labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union. Its 23-year fight for autonomy in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has claimed tens of thousands of lives.


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