Iraq Kurdish leader snubs Rice over Turkey raid

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaks to reporters at a news conference in Baghdad, December 18, 2007. REUTERS/Bob Strong

ARBIL, Iraq (Reuters) - The president of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region refused to meet U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday because of Washington’s tolerance of Turkish military attacks, his prime minister said.

Rice’s unannounced visit to Iraq was overshadowed by an incursion by about 300 Turkish soldiers into the Kurdish province of Dahuk in the north of the country.

The operation was condemned by the Iraqi Kurdish government of President Masoud Barzani, which has also criticized U.S. tolerance of Turkish previous air and artillery strikes targeting separatists based in northern Iraq.

“There was supposed to be a meeting between Rice and Mr. Masoud Barzani in Baghdad, but because of the U.S. position regarding the Turkish attacks and bombings, he preferred not to go,” Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani told reporters.

“The United States supervises (Iraq’s) air space, so it is not possible that a violation of this air space occurs without the knowledge or approval of the Americans,” he said. Nechirvan Barzani is Masoud Barzani’s nephew.

Turkish warplanes bombed villages in northern Iraq over the weekend. Iraq complained that at least one civilian woman was killed in the strikes, and has said it wants any future military action to be coordinated with Baghdad.

Rice, speaking later at a news conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari, said Turkey, Iraq and the United States had a common interest “in stopping the activities of the


Reporting by Shamal Aqrawi; Writing by Alaa Shahine in Baghdad; Editing by Giles Elgood