December 24, 2007 in Nation/World

Turkish leader defends bombings

C. Onur Ant Associated Press

ISTANBUL, Turkey – Turkey’s prime minister defended the recent bombing of Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq as military jets pummeled the area with fresh attacks on Sunday.

A spokesman for security forces in the Kurdish-run region, Jabar Yawar, said the jets bombed an area about 50 miles north of Irbil near the border with Turkey for about an hour and a half. He said there were no civilian casualties because the area was deserted for fear of Turkish attacks.

Yawar said he did not know whether any Kurdish rebels had been killed.

“We are using our nation’s natural right under international law,” while keeping within limits of reason, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said when journalists asked about reports of a fresh cross-border operation, state-run media reported.

Military authorities were not immediately available to discuss any operations.

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker said before Sunday’s attack that the U.S. acknowledges Turkey’s right to defend itself but asked the U.S. ally and NATO member not to endanger Iraq’s stability.

“At the same time, we’ve also said that we all have a pretty substantial interest in the stability of Iraq and none of us want to see operations pursued in a manner that can threaten basic stability inside Iraq,” Crocker said.

On Saturday, Turkish warplanes bombed Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq in the third confirmed cross-border offensive by Turkish forces in less than a week, the military said.

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, has fought for autonomy in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast since 1984. The group is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

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