AP: Iraq has demanded that Iran halt shelling against Kurdish rebels in the country's north and warned the "extremely dangerous violations" of Iraqi territory could harm relations between the two countries, according to a statement issued Tuesday.
The Associated Press
By KIM GAMEL
BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq has demanded that Iran halt shelling against Kurdish rebels in the country's north and warned the "extremely dangerous violations" of Iraqi territory could harm relations between the two countries, according to a statement issued Tuesday.
The Foreign Ministry said it summoned the Iranian ambassador to Baghdad on Monday and handed him a letter of protest.
The diplomatic protest was the latest strain in relations between the two Shiite-dominated countries even as Iraq's government has been reaching out to its neighbors for more support.
The Iranians used helicopters flying parallel to the border to fire on Iranian Kurdish rebel positions on Saturday and struck with artillery on Monday, Kurdish security officials said.
Tehran did not have an immediate comment on the protest. Its military has often fired artillery strikes against the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan, which seeks greater rights for Iran's Kurds. Tehran accuses it of launching attacks inside Iran from Iraqi bases.
The head of the Foreign Ministry's neighboring countries affairs department Taha al-Abbasi delivered "Iraq's strong protest against extremely dangerous Iranian military violations on Iraqi border villages and territory," the statement said.
The ministry statement accused the Iranians of using jet fighters, helicopters and artillery shelling and said a large number of villagers had been wounded.
Iraq said it understood Iran's need to secure its borders but stressed that should be done through contacts and dialogue between the two countries.
Al-Abbasi asked the Iranian ambassador, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, "for an immediate end to these violations" and warned their continuation would "hold bad consequences for bilateral relations," the statement said.
The Iraqi government has faced allegations it has not acted strongly against the Kurdish rebels who have staged cross-border attacks against Iran as well as Turkey.
Reflecting the delicate balance, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki vowed not to allow groups to use Iraq as a base from which to strike neighboring countries but insisted Iraq would protect its airspace from incursions by countries seeking to root out guerrillas.
"We won't allow Iraq to be used as a base to attack neighboring countries, and we won't allow any interference in our internal affairs," al-Maliki said Monday in a speech at the Diplomatic Academy in Paris.
The statement came as Iraq's semiautonomous Kurdish regional government announced Tuesday that it has set July 25 as the date to elect its local parliament.
Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani promised the vote will be "fair and transparent" despite concerns about corruption and infighting.
The Kurds did not take part in the Jan. 31 provincial elections held in the rest of Iraq because their parliament needs to draft its own law for provincial elections.
Factions among the Kurds have been battling for power ahead of national parliamentary elections expected later this year and the withdrawal of the U.S. forces by the end of 2011.
About 2.5 million eligible voters in the Kurdish region will choose candidates from 42 political entities for the 111-seat parliament.
The U.S. military, meanwhile, said Iraqi and American forces killed two suspected insurgents and arrested six others during a raid in a Sunni area north of Baghdad.
Tuesday's operation targeted a suicide attack coordinator in the area near the town of Duluiyah, according to a statement.
Local police and witnesses said the two killed were civilians.
But the U.S. military said the two suspects were killed while trying to flee and both were wearing suicide vests.
The military statement stressed the raid was fully coordinated and conducted with the agreement of Iraqi authorities."
U.S. officials have been stressing that recent operations have been in accordance with a U.S.-Iraqi security pact after a deadly U.S. raid south of Baghdad drew complaints that the Americans had violated the accord.
___ Associated Press Writers Hamid Ahmed and Sinan Salaheddin contributed to this report.