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Turkey urges end to N Iraq raids

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Turkey urges end to N Iraq raids

Turkey is urging the US to bring its operations in the north Iraq town of Talafar to a swift end, saying ethnic Turkmen have died in air strikes.

US warplanes have been pounding Talafar - which is thought to be a haven for fighters entering Iraq from Syria.

About 20 residents are believed to have been killed on Thursday. American forces have sealed off the town.

US aircraft on Friday also attacked anti-US insurgents in Falluja, west of Baghdad, for a fourth consecutive day.

The US military has been fighting insurgents in Falluja since Monday, when a car bomb there killed seven US marines.

Coalition forces lost control of Falluja in April and agreed to turn it over to a local force to end an earlier uprising by Sunni militants.

The US has also been battling insurgents further north in Talafar - where half of the population consists of ethnic Turkmen, according to Ankara.

Several are reported to have been killed in the recent air strikes, and many more have reportedly been forced to flee.

Bodies

The bombings have sparked concern in Turkey. The foreign ministry in Ankara said Turkish officials had contacted the American government.

"We have asked the US authorities to stop the offensive in Talafar as soon as possible," the ministry said in a statement.

The Turkish government has also called on the US to avoid using "excessive force".

Reports from Talafar say only medical staff are being allowed through checkpoints controlled by American and Iraqi troops.

Turkey regards northern Iraq as part of its sphere of influence - not only because of its close ethnic and linguistic ties with Iraq's Turkmen but because of the presence of large Kurdish populations on both sides of the border.

Elsewhere, the bodies of three Lebanese nationals were found in Baghdad on Friday, Lebanon's foreign ministry said.

Their identities have not been established and it was not clear why they had been shot dead.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3645070.stm

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Turkey warns US on northern Iraq

Turkey says it will end cooperation with the US in Iraq if the Americans continue with their offensive in the northern Iraqi town of Talafar.

Ankara is concerned about the plight of the large Turkmen population there, some of whom have been killed.

US and Iraqi troops last week began a major operation against Talafar - a suspected haven for foreign fighters entering Iraq from Syria.

On Friday Turkey's foreign ministry urged the US to halt the offensive.

"What is being done there is harming the civilian population, that it is wrong," Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said on Monday.

He added that if the operation continues in Talafar, "Turkey's cooperation on issues regarding Iraq will come to a total stop".

Turkey is a major Nato ally of the US.

The BBC's Jonny Dymond in Ankara says an end to Turkish cooperation in Iraq could have a serious impact.

As well as supplying logistical help for the US armed forces there, Turkey is a major trade and supply route into the country.

The Turkish airbase of Incirlik has been used by the US to rotate its troops in and out of Iraq.

Casualties

Our correspondent adds that it is not clear yet quite what Turkey means by ending cooperation - but the US needs Turkey enough for it to heed the minister's warning.

The Turks regards northern Iraq as part of their sphere of influence - not only because of its close ethnic and linguistic ties with Iraq's Turkmen but because of the presence of large Kurdish populations on both sides of the border.

It is unclear how many people have been killed in the US offensive in Talafar.

But reports suggest that some Turkmen are among the victims, and that many thousands have been forced to flee.

The US ambassador to Turkey, Eric Edelman, has said the American forces are doing their best to keep civilian losses to a minimum as they fight the Iraqi insurgents.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3653868.stm

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