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Turks Want Soldiers Freed in Iran

July 26, 1999

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ Turkey’s premier demanded on Monday that Iran release two Turkish soldiers detained last week while pursuing Kurdish rebels inside Iranian territory.

``We want this incident resolved as soon as possible in a positive way,″ Premier Bulent Ecevit said.

Turkey contends that Kurdish separatists, fighting for autonomy in southeast Turkey, stage hit and run attacks from bases in neighboring Iran, Iraq and Syria.

Turkey said the soldiers must have crossed the border accidentally.

Ecevit repeated accusations he made Sunday that Iran has been harboring Kurdish rebels.

``This does not make for good neighborly relations,″ Ecevit said.

Turkey says the rebels moved to Iran after Turkey threatened Syria with military action to oust the rebels from Syrian territory last fall. Iran denies guerrillas are in its territory and has accused Turkish troops of violating its border.

The detention of the soldiers, which came a few days after Iran accused Turkey of launching airstrikes against a base of its elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, has escalated tensions between the neighbors. Iran claimed that five people were killed and 10 others were injured in the attack.

Turkey denied the attack.

Turkish warplanes bombed a site in Iran in 1996. Turkey later apologized, saying it was targeting Kurdish rebels.

Update hourly