ANKARA, Turkey – Turkey's prime minister said Friday that Iraq could satisfy Turkey, forestalling Turkish military action in northern part of the country, by eradicating Kurdish rebel bases and extraditing rebel leaders.
But Iraq's foreign minister has said the country does not have the resources now to defeat the guerrillas. And the exchange did not appear to diminish the prospect that a new war front might soon be opened inside Iraq.
Turkey has threatened to cross the Iraqi border to try to wipe out Kurdish rebel bases, arguing it has the right to fight terrorism. The United States and Iraq oppose such unilateral action, fearing it could destabilize northern Iraq, the most stable part of the country.
Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd, said Thursday that Baghdad was willing to increase pressure on the guerrilla Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. But his comments drew a mixed response from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
"We welcome this as a positive step, but it is an announcement that came late," Erdogan said Friday in Istanbul. "The PKK camps must be eradicated and the rebel leaders must be extradited. That would satisfy Turkey."
Zebari said Thursday that Iraq doesn't have the forces to push the PKK out of Iraq.
"The Iraqi government is not running away from its responsibilities. It's just a question of time," Zebari said. "You need to dislodge them by force. Iraqi security forces are battling the terrorists in the streets of Baghdad and many other key cities and are over-stretched."
Zebari said Iraq could take steps to cut off supplies and create checkpoints to limit access for the rebels in the north. He also recommended three-party talks between Iraq, Turkey and the United States.
But Turkey said its patience has run out in the face of escalating attacks by Kurdish rebels. And Erdogan said he had told Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that Turkey does not want to be "deceived with promises."
The U.S. lists the PKK as a terrorist organization, but has called on the Turkish government to work with Iraqis. U.S. President George W. Bush said Turkey has had troops stationed in northern Iraq and should not send more across the border.
Since the mid-1990s, Turkey has had around 1,500 soldiers stationed in northern Iraq to monitor PKK activities and gather intelligence.
A senior rebel commander, Murat Karayilan, said Friday that his fighters could target oil pipelines inside Turkey if Turkish forces move across the border to hit Kurdish rebel camps. Turkey says there are 3,800 rebels holed up in Iraqi mountains.
"Because of the fact that oil pipelines passing through Kurdistan provides resources for the Turkish army's aggression, it's very natural for the guerrillas to target them," the pro-Kurdish Firat news agency quoted Karayilan as saying. He was referring to twin oil pipelines running from northern Iraq to Turkey's Mediterranean oil terminal at Ceyhan.
The PKK has blown up the pipelines before, disrupting oil flow for several days.
Erdogan, meanwhile, thanked the U.S. administration for trying to block a resolution in the U.S. Congress that calls the World War I-era killing of up to 1.5 million Armenians in Turkey "genocide."
"We have no worry about our history. There is nothing like genocide in our belief and nobody can hold us responsible for a thing that we have not committed," Erdogan said.