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Turkey Sets Up Buffer Zone in Iraq

October 22, 1997

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ Turkish troops have taken over a zone in northern Iraq in a new bid to seal Turkey’s borders from hit-and-run attacks by Kurdish rebels.

Military authorities have not yet decided how long the soldiers will be stationed along the 200-mile border, Foreign Ministry spokesman Omer Akbel said Wednesday. The daily Hurriyet newspaper reported that 8,000 Turkish soldiers were establishing the buffer zone in northern Iraq.

The Turkish military’s desire to keep its troops in a valley beyond the mountainous border would require the army to move at least nine miles inside northern Iraq. Hurriyet also reported that Turkey placed surveillance equipment purchased from the United States and Israel along the border to monitor the rebel movements.

Kurdish rebels fighting for autonomy in Turkey’s southeast have taken advantage of a power vacuum in northern Iraq, setting up bases to launch cross-border attacks at Turkish targets.

The vacuum was created when Baghdad lost control of the region after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. U.S.-led warplanes monitor a no-fly zone to keep Iraqi troops away from the region, now controlled by rival Kurdish groups.

Turkish troops have gone into northern Iraq several times in the last few years, trying to wipe out the rebel presence. But each time the troops leave, the separatists return to the mountains.

The war has killed more than 28,000 people since 1984.

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, meanwhile, called on the United States to review the power vacuum in northern Iraq, the private news channel NTV reported Wednesday.

Ecevit said the northern Iraqi situation has been costly. He did not elaborate, but Turkey’s military incursions have been a burden on the country’s budget.

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