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Iraq: Turkey, Iraqi Kurds Deny Turkish Troops In North

Ankara, 22 March 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The Turkish Army and Iraqi Kurds are both denying reports that Turkish troops have entered Kurdish-held territory in northern Iraq. Turkey's General Staff said in a statement today reports that more than 1,000 Turkish soldiers have moved into northern Iraq are false.

In the northern Iraqi city of Arbil, a senior Iraqi Kurdish official, Hoshyar Zebari, also said no Turkish troops have been deployed in the area.

The reports came shortly after Britain's Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said a "small" number of Turkish troops had entered Kurdish-held territory in northern Iraq to "prevent instability."

Yesterday, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said troops would be deployed to prevent an influx of refugees and to prevent "terrorist activity."

Turkey wants to block any attempts by Iraqi Kurds to create an independent state because it fears such a move could cause a Kurdish separatist movement in Turkey.

The United States has strongly discouraged Turkey from moving troops into the area, saying it could cause unrest in northern Iraq.