ON THE IRAQI-TURKISH BORDER (Reuter)–Turkey’s neighbors–apparently unnerved by Ankara’s anti-rebel campaign in northern Iraq–are building up their forces on the borders of the Kurdish enclave–according to Turkish and Kurdish sources. Syria–Iraq and Iran have massed forces near the borders of the Kurdish "safe haven" in northern Iraq–Turkey’s state-run Anatolian news agency said on Wednesday.
"Syria–the country which gives the biggest support to the separatist organization (of the Kurdistan Workers Party–or PKK)–has built up troops at the northern Iraq border using the excuse of a military exercise," Anatolian said.
It quoted unnamed sources as saying the move by Damascus–Tehran and Baghdad was believed to be part of an effort to provide shelter within their borders to the PKK.
Damascus declined to comment on the reports–but earlier described Ankara’s incursion in Iraq as an "invasion."
"Turkey’s incursion inside Iraqi territory reflects bad intentions by the Turkish authorities against their neighbors," a senior Syrian official told Reuters in Damascus.
Baghdad–which has criticized the incursion throughout as a violation of international law–lashed out again on Wednesday–warning it had the right to answer accordingly.
"Turkey’s action constitutes a blatant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and integrity as well as international agreemen’s–laws and the principles of good neighborliness," Issam Khalil–Iraq’s ambassador to Greece–said in Athens.
"Turkey must stop acting like a phony policeman and realize that the era of aging and sick empires is gone forever," Khalil said–warning that Baghdad was entitled to "reply accordingly to Turkey’s aggressive act."
He did not comment on reports of an Iraqi troop buildup. There was no immediate response from Iran.
The incursion has also drawn criticism from Ankara’s Western allies–the United Nations as well as countries in the region.
More than 10,000 Turkish troops last week began a major cross-border operation in pursuit of the PKK who use northern Iraq as a base to launch raids into southeast Turkey.
Turkey said it moved in at the request of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)–which controls the Turkish border regions of the Kurdish-run area.
Another Kurdish group–which shares power uneasily with the KDP in northern Iraq–said it was worried by Turkey’s incursion.
"We do not like the fact that the region is being used as a place for the build up of forces and possible fighting between regional powers," Kadir Haji Ali–a senior member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)–told Reuters.
"We are conscious Turkey’s intervention will strengthen the KDP and corrupt the balance of forces in the region," he said.
Pro-PKK MED-TV said about 50 Iraqi tanks had moved closer to the Mosul road–on the edge of the Kurdish enclave where Turkish soldiers had set up checkpoints. However–the Iraqi armor remained in government territory–it said.
MED-TV–based in Belgium–also reported that Syria had begun war games to the south of its border with the Iraqi Kurdish enclave three days ago.
The anti-Baghdad Iraqi National Congress said it had received reports from the area of a buildup by Iranian and Iraqi forces on the borders of the "safe haven."
A spokesman for the INC–based in London–said Iranian revolutionary guards had been sent to the border regions.
Iraqi republican guards–backed by tanks–were gathered between the government city of Mosul and Dohuk–inside the enclave–near the Fayda checkpoint which separates the Kurdish region from the rest of Iraq–the INC said.