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Iranian minister says U.S. backs Kurdish rebels

Special to The Times

Iranian Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki, at a news conference Sunday with his Turkish counterpart, accused the United States of backing Kurdish separatists waging warfare against Turkey and Iran.

Turkey and Iran have been fighting guerrillas with the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, and the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan, or PEJAK, holed up in the mountains of northern Iraq. Turkey has amassed troops near the Iraqi border and threatened to launch an invasion into Iraq’s Kurdistan region to root out rebel bases after the killing and capture of Turkish troops in cross-border clashes in recent weeks.

On Sunday, a Turkish military operation in eastern Iraq resulted in the deaths of at least 15 militants, according to the private Dogan news agency.

“The patience of the Turkish government, parliament and nation has come to its end,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said at the news conference here.

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Babacan thanked the Iranian government for its support but said he did not subscribe to the theory that Americans were backing the Kurdish rebels. “The U.S. does not seem to be involved in the PKK insurgence,” he told reporters.

But Mottaki called PKK, PEJAK and the Mujahedin Khalq organization terrorist groups and suggested the U.S. was supporting them.

“We do hope that the U.S. administration will take corrective actions regarding clandestine and behind-the-curtain support for the terrorist activities,” he told reporters.

“We condemn the terrorist actions of PKK, and we express our heartfelt sympathy toward the Turkish nation and government,” he said.

Iran accuses the U.S. of backing separatist ethnic and religious groups fighting the government in a bid to pressure Tehran to slow or halt its nuclear research program and end support for militant Islamic groups in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

The U.S. government, which has labeled the PKK a terrorist group, has urged Turkey to show restraint and continue to work on a diplomatic solution rather than mount an incursion into northern Iraq.

“I’m very worried about this,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), a Senate Foreign Relations Committee member, on CNN’s “Late Edition.”

“This is a definite hot spot. This could be an expansion of a front of a nightmare situation we’re already involved in.”

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Babacan said talks between Washington and the Turkish government in Ankara had been unsuccessful. “We have so far been unable to find a solution in this regard,” he said.

Economic, military and diplomatic ties between Turkey, a U.S. ally that is secular and a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the Islamic Republic of Iran have blossomed in recent years despite the two countries’ radically different relations with Washington. Annual trade between Iran and Turkey exceeds $4 billion.

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daragahi@latimes.com

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Times staff writer Laura King in Istanbul, Turkey, contributed to this report.


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