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Iraq Says To Help Turkey, U.S. Drive Out PKK Rebels

A Turkish soldier patrols along the rugged Turkey-Iraq border.
ANKARA (Reuters) -- Iraq will help Turkey and the United States in efforts to combat the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) until the guerrilla movement is eliminated, a senior Iraqi official has said.

Turkey has long criticized Iraq for failing to rein in PKK rebels who attack it from bases in northern Iraq. The issue has strained ties between the two neighbors, although cooperation has improved over the past year, partly due to U.S. pressure.

"We will continue our cooperation until the PKK is brought to an end," Iraqi Minister of State for National Security Shirwan al-Waeli told a news conference in Ankara July 28 after a meeting with senior U.S. and Turkish officials.

Waeli and Turkish Interior Minister Besir Atalay told the joint news conference they expected concrete results of their cooperation by the time they meet again in Iraq in October but provided no further details.

Kurdish rebels took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984 with the aim of creating a Kurdish ethnic homeland. The separatist conflict has killed 40,000 people.

As the Turkish state has cracked down on PKK rebels in recent years many of the fighters have moved their bases across the border into the isolated Iraqi mountains.

Kurds -- who number about 12 million in Turkey out of a population of more than 70 million -- have long complained of ethnic and cultural discrimination by the Turkish state.

The Turkish government is working on a plan to improve the situation for the Kurdish minority in southeast Turkey, a move it hopes will reduce the influence of the PKK in the region.