Iraqi Kurd officials OK use of force

Special to The Times

Lawmakers in northern Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdish region authorized their military Tuesday to intervene if Turkish forces pursuing anti-government rebels bring their battle into civilian areas.

The move heightened fears that the conflict could draw in Iraqi Kurdish forces and destabilize the one region of Iraq that has been relatively peaceful since the U.S. invasion in March 2003.

Tensions also were growing between the governments of Iraq and Turkey, which sent thousands of ground troops over the northern border into Iraqi Kurdistan on Thursday.


Turkey says its aim is to pursue separatists of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, who took up arms against the Turkish government in 1984 demanding Kurdish independence in southern Turkey and who have bases in the mountains of northern Iraq.

But Iraq’s Kurdish minority views the invasion as an infringement of Iraq’s sovereignty.

Iraq’s national government agrees, spokesman Ali Dabbagh said in a statement Tuesday. He called the Turkish action “not acceptable” and a threat to Iraq-Turkey relations.

The Kurdish regional government’s parliament held a special session Tuesday in Irbil to discuss the issue and voted to authorize the regional military force, the peshmerga, to respond if civilian areas are attacked. It also called for U.S. forces to play a bigger role in protecting Iraq’s land and air space.

The Bush administration considers the PKK a terrorist group and has acknowledged that it knew in advance of Turkish air raids and the subsequent ground invasion.

In the northern city of Kirkuk, about 200 protesters demanded international intervention to drive Turkey out. “Turkey has to resort to peaceful and diplomatic solutions instead of military ones,” said one, Hawkar Mohammed.

Kirkuk, an ethnically mixed city, is scheduled to have a referendum this year on whether to become part of Kurdistan and break away from Iraqi central government control. There is concern that the conflict between Turkey and its Kurdish rebels could exacerbate violence in Kirkuk, where Sunni Arabs oppose Kurds’ desire for autonomy.

Also Tuesday, Iraqi television showed video of a man identifying himself as one of five Britons abducted from an Iraqi government building last May. The man said his name was Peter and that his kidnappers were demanding the release of nine Iraqis being held by British forces in Iraq.

“I have been held here for eight months, and I miss my family so much,” said the man, who appeared on the Arabic-language Al Arabiya satellite channel. “What I want is to get out of here.”

A previously unknown Shiite Muslim group calling itself the Shiite Islamic Resistance in Iraq claims to hold the five men. It was the second time the group released a video showing any of them. In December, it released a video of a man who called himself Jason.

The five were abducted May 29 from an Iraqi Finance Ministry compound in Baghdad. Four were working for the Canada-based security firm Garda World. The fifth is a computer expert working with the McLean, Va.-based management consulting firm BearingPoint.

In northern Iraq, a bomber blew himself up in a bus near the city of Mosul.

Iraqi security officials said 14 people were killed, but the U.S. military put the death toll at eight, not including the bomber. There was no way to account for the discrepancy.


Special correspondent Ahmed reported from Irbil and Times staff writer Susman from Baghdad. Special correspondents in Baqubah and Kirkuk contributed to this report.