BAGHDAD – A Kurdish rebel group on Tuesday rejected calls by Iraq's president to stop fighting against Turkey and leave Iraqi territory.
President Jalal Talabani made the call Monday during a joint press conference with visiting Turkish President Abdullah Gul. Talabani, who is a Kurd, said it was in Iraq's interest to remove fighters of the Kurdistan Workers' Part, or PKK, from Iraqi soil.
He also called on the rebels to lay down their weapons.
"Jalal Talabani doesn't have the authority or the will to utter such words, and we don't take orders from him," PKK spokesman Ahmed Deniz said.
"We are publicly warning Talabani that such statements will lead to grave consequences and much of the achievements of (Iraq's) Kurds will be lost," Deniz told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. He did not elaborate.
PKK rebels, who stage cross-border raids into Turkish territory from sanctuaries in northern Iraq, have been fighting for autonomy in Turkey's southeast since 1984. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people.
Gul arrived Monday on the first trip to Iraq by a Turkish head of state in 33 years. He urged Iraqis to crack down on Kurdish rebels and was expected to repeat that call during talks here Tuesday.
"The time has come to remove the element that is a source of trouble," Gul said during the press conference. "We need to engage in a joint struggle to completely eradicate terrorism."
Turkey has carried out several cross border airstrikes against rebel targets and is pressing Baghdad and the Kurdish regional government to step up efforts against the Kurdish rebels from their side.
Tensions escalated last year after the rebels killed about two dozen Turkish soldiers in attacks in October.
The areas where the PKK operates are under control of the Iraqi Kurdish regional administration rather than the Arab-dominated central government in Baghdad.