Turkey takes aggressive approach

ANKARA, Turkey &

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

Despite repeated Turkish demands for more action from both the United States and Iraq, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, the top American military commander in northern Iraq, said Friday he plans to do "absolutely nothing" to counter Kurdish rebels operating from the region.

Mixon said it's not the U.S. military's responsibility to act. He said that he has sent no additional American troops to the area and he's 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," Turkish 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 television 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."

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 crackdown on the rebel group.

Cicek said: "We will use our right stemming from international laws until the end."

"If some people will the price of it, they will pay it," Cicek said in an apparent reference to Iraqi Kurdish administration which Turkey accuses of turning a blind eye to activities of the Kurdish rebels in their territory. Turkey has threatened economic sanctions against northern Iraq if needed.

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

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has proposed a meeting involving the United States, Iraq and Turkey during the Nov. 1-3 conference in Istanbul. Turkish 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.

"They might wish that we do not carry out a cross-border offensive, but we make the decision on what we have to do," Erdogan said while visiting Romania. "We have taken necessary steps in this struggle so far, and now we are forced to take this step and we will take it."

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.

"We will take revenge for any martyrs' blood that is spilled," one of the soldiers told AP Television News. Most Turks and media organizations use the term "martyr" in referring to soldiers killed in fighting.

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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