KALAR, Iraq (AP) _ The deadliest so far of a growing number of clashes between rival Iraqi Kurdish groups was ignited by a fight over a tombstone.

After a two-day battle that left nearly a score or more dead - the two forces vary widely in their casualty counts - tensions Sunday remained at the trigger point between fundamentalist Muslim Kurds and one of the leftist groups bent on winning automony in northern Iraq from Saddam Hussein.

The leftist guerrillas of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan play down the feud. But the fundamentalists, eager to install Islamic law in northern Iraq, say they're ready, if necessary, to again attack their Marxist-leaning rivals.

Just as their ideologies differ radically, so did both sides' accounts of the battle that began Thursday and lasted thorugh Friday.

Sparks began to fly when two PUK guerrillas approached a training camp operated by the fundamentalist Islamic Movement of Kurdistan in hopes of obtaining a tombstone for one of their dead.

The fundamentalists, who have a monopoly on the tombstone supply in Kalar, a town of 70,000 people, insist that any non-fundamentalist seeking a marker show up with the body of the dead person and then go to a mosque to complete paperwork.

Apparently this arrangement was not to the leftists liking. An argument exploded into a shootout, in which Patriotic Union officials said the two guerrillas were killed.

The Patriotic Union then attacked a mosque and two other fundamentalist strongholds in the town.

Kurdo Kasim, a ranking Patriotic Union official, taking a journalist on a tour of the area tour early Sunday, first insisted that his group suffered only two dead, and that they killed 27 fundamentalists. But then he admitted that the Patriotic Union's toll was five dead, eight wounded.

The fundamentalist claim they lost 11 fighters, and that the union lost 38.

Kasim said after two days of intermittent fighting, the fundamentalists agreed to hand over those who started the fight, compensate the families of the victims and withdraw from all mosques within a week.

''All this had been an accident. We are now brothers once again, and peace reigns,'' Kasim said. While he talked, his guerrillas patrolled Kalar's streets with automatic rifles and anti-tank grenades.

But in a backroom of the mosque, the local Islamic leader didn't seem ready to forgive and forget.

''They had been preparing to attack us for a long time, and they seized on a trivial argument to carry out their plans,'' said Nejim Abdullah, sitting beside an oil lamp in a room decorated with quotations from the Koran.

Sleeping guerrillas, their heads resting on their rifles, packed a courtyard outside the mosque.

The walls were pockmarked by bullets and there were several large holes apparently punched by RPG-7 antitank grenades.

''We do not trust them. We have to be ready for another attack,'' Abdullah said.

He charged the leftist guerrillas rushed in ''more than 2,000 reinforcements'' during the fighting while the fundamentalists had only 80 fighters. About 300 Islamic guerrillas arrived Saturday, mostly from Raniya in the north where the fundamentalist movement is relatively strong.

The Patriotic Union dismissed Abdullah's version, saying their fighters numbered far, far fewer.