Anti-terrorism deal eludes Turkey and Iraq so far

ANKARA, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Turkey and Iraq failed to clinch an anti-terrorism accord on Thursday after Baghdad said Ankara must seek its permission before sending troops over their shared border in pursuit of Kurdish rebels.

But the Iraqi delegation said it would extend its stay in Ankara until Friday, insisting they were close to an agreement.

Ankara wants Baghdad and occupying U.S. forces to crack down on Kurdish rebels who use mountainous, mainly Kurdish northern Iraq as a springboard from which to attack Turkish security forces across the border.

Turkey has many times threatened to take unilateral military action if Iraqi and U.S. forces fail to tackle an estimated 3,000 rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) hiding in northern Iraq.

"We failed to reach an accord today. The consultations and negotiations will continue this evening and tomorrow," a senior Turkish official told Reuters.

The stumbling block in the negotiations has been the issue of "hot pursuit", with Ankara saying it has the right under international law to chase PKK rebels into northern Iraq, given the relative security vacuum there.

"We are trying to find consensus on the Iraqi side," an Iraqi official said, in an apparent reference to Iraqi Kurdish objections to any concessions to Turkey on the border issue.

Putting a brave face on the impasse, Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani told reporters through an interpreter that both countries had pledged to respect each other's sovereignty.

"We are making the last touches to an agreement, we have postponed our travel. There is some opportunity to sign an agreement," Bolani said, through the interpreter.

The Iraqi delegation had been due to leave Ankara on Thursday evening.

Turkey already conducts occasional raids across the border, diplomats say, and it does not want any new accord with the Baghdad government to tie its hands.

Ankara blames the PKK for the deaths of more than 30,000 people since the group began its armed struggle for an ethnic homeland in mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey in 1984.

A draft text proposed by Iraq on Thursday and seen by Reuters makes clear Turkey would only be able to send troops across the border "in hot pursuit" of PKK rebels with Baghdad's formal and explicit permission.

The talks in Ankara, which began on Wednesday, follow a pledge made by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on a visit to the Turkish capital last month to crack down on the PKK rebels.

The United States has urged NATO ally Turkey to avoid any major military incursion into northern Iraq, fearing this would destabilise the most peaceful part of the country.