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Iraq: Kurds Ask U.S. Not To Let Turkish Forces Into North

Arbil, 25 February 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The Iraqi Kurdish parliament met today in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq and called on the U.S. to prevent Turkish troops from crossing into their territory if war breaks out with Iraq. The Kurdish parliament, which is dominated by the Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, unanimously passed a declaration asking the U.S. and other allies not to let the military of Turkey or other countries enter what they called "Kurdistan."

The declaration also says that the Kurdish parliament rejects any military intervention by Turkey or other countries in Kurdistan and any such intervention would create a very dangerous situation.

Turkey has been negotiating with the U.S. on the role Turkish troops would play in northern Iraq if there is war.

Iraqi Kurds in northern Iraq have enjoyed self-rule since 1991, protected by a no-fly zone imposed by the U.S. and Britain.

Also today, the White House says U.S. President George W. Bush has not given up hope that Iraq will disarm peacefully, but says that there is a only a "slim chance" of avoiding military action.

Bush's spokesman Ari Fleischer said today at the White House that the U.S. government hopes that what he calls "sufficient international pressure" will persuade Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to dismantle his weapons of mass destruction.

In London, meanwhile, British Prime Minister Tony Blair says a French-German plan to intensify UN arms inspections in Iraq is unworkable. But Blair says he is prepared to give Saddam a little more time to comply.

"The U.K., along with the U.S. and Spain, introduced a new resolution declaring that -- and I quote -- 'Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it in Resolution 1441.' But we will not put this resolution to a vote immediately. Instead, we will delay it to give Saddam one further final chance to disarm voluntarily," Blair said.

France and Germany, backed by Russia and China, have proposed extending the search for Iraqi weapons by at least four months. But Blair says anything less than "full, unconditional, and immediate" compliance with UN demands will not resolve the crisis.