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Turkish PM says U.S. will not stop incursion into Iraq

A Kurdish man stands next to a crater that Iraqi Kurdish authorities claim was caused by Turkish artillery.

AP photo

ANKARA, Turkey — Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday that U.S. objections would not stop Turkey from crossing into Iraq to eliminate Kurdish rebels. The Turkish military said it had killed more than 30 insurgents who were poised to launch an attack, near the Iraqi border.

President Abdullah Gul said Turkey is running out of patience with the Kurdish separatist attacks. A steady stream of U.S.-made Turkish fighter jets roared into the sky near the Iraqi border, apparently loaded with bombs.

The Turkish military said it had spotted a “group of terrorists” near a military outpost in the province of Semdinli close to the border with Iraq on Tuesday and fired on them with tanks, artillery and other heavy weaponry. It said the group had been preparing for an attack.

In a statement posted on its Web site, the military said the troops kept firing on the group as they escaped toward the Iraqi territory.

The Bush administration is urging Turkey not to launch an incursion that would destabilize Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish north, Iraq’s most stable region.

Meanwhile in Iraq, a Sunni schoolteacher was hijacked as he drove to visit his sister in a predominantly Shiite area of Baghdad on Thursday. His body was found an hour later with three gunshots to his eyes.

Iraqi police blamed Shiite gang members for the killing — a grim reminder that sectarian hatreds and crimes persist regardless of declining violence in the capital.

In Washington, House Democrats on Thursday accused Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of grossly mismanaging diplomatic efforts in Iraq and concealing information from Congress. The charges put a visibly frustrated Rice on the defensive.

At a hearing by a congressional watchdog committee, Democratic lawmakers said the State Department under Rice had been too lax with armed security contractors, ignored corruption at the highest levels of the Iraqi government and was sloppy in overseeing construction of the costly new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

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