Iraqi Foreign Ministry says it rejects sheltering Turkey's PKK fighters in country's north

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Iraq is rejecting a key element in an accord to bring an end to a long Kurdish rebellion in Turkey — offering refuge to Kurdish fighters.

In March, the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, announced a deal to end a nearly three-decade conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people. As part of the accord, the rebels agreed to a gradual retreat from Turkish territory to the Iraq's northern self-ruled Kurdish region.

Thursday's statement said the Iraqi government "does not accept" such armed groups that "could be used to damage" Iraq's security and stability.

The statement came a day after PKK rebels started withdrawing to bases in Iraqi mountains. It was not clear if the Baghdad government would try to stop the process, expected to take several months.