June 8, 2010 / 5:07 PM / 8 years ago

Iraqi Kurds seek help to halt Iranian incursion

ARBIL, Iraq (Reuters) - Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region on Tuesday demanded the central government in Baghdad take steps against an incursion into its territory by Iranian forces pursuing Kurdish rebels.

A Reuters witness saw Iranian soldiers manning a small position some two kilometers (1.2 miles) inside Iraqi Kurdistan.

Kurdish officials say a small unit of Iranian soldiers penetrated Kurdistan’s Arbil province on June 3 following days of shelling that they say has displaced some 300 families from Kurdish border villages.

Kurdish MPs accused the Shi’ite-led government in Baghdad of turning a blind eye to the Iranian operation, against rebels seeking autonomy for Kurdish areas of Iran.

Iraq and Iran fought a war in the 1980s, but since the overthrow of Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003 relations between the two majority Shi’ite Muslim countries have improved.

The Kurdish regional assembly unanimously adopted a memorandum calling on the Iraqi government, the United Nations, the United States and other powers “to press Iran to stop its bombardment of Iraqi border villages and to end its occupation of a position inside Iraqi Kurdistan.”

MP Zakiya Saleh told Reuters: “We must criticize the Iraqi government for its apathy and indifference and for ignoring the Iranian aggression toward the Kurdish region.”

Iranian forces frequently clash with rebels from the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which took up arms in 1984 for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey.

Iran considers the PJAK a terrorist group.

Like Iraq, Turkey and Syria, Iran has a large Kurdish minority, living mainly in the Islamic Republic’s northwest and west.

Writing by Matt Robinson; editing by Andrew Roche

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