October 19, 2007 / 3:27 PM / in 12 years

Kurd rebels say may hit Turk pipelines if attacked

ANKARA (Reuters) - Kurdish guerrillas could strike oil pipelines if Turkish troops attack them, a pro-rebel news agency quoted one of their leaders on Friday as saying.

Turkey’s parliament authorized Turkish troops on Wednesday to conduct cross-border operations into northern Iraq to crush rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) hiding in the mountains there.

“We have no specific policy on pipelines but we are now waging a defensive war... Since pipelines that cross Kurdistan provide the economic resources for the Turkish army’s aggression, it is possible the guerrillas target them,” the Firat news agency quoted PKK commander Murat Karayilan saying.

Firat, which is based in Europe, often carries statements from the PKK leadership. The PKK has threatened to hit Turkish economic targets in the past, but its threats have acquired a new urgency following the parliamentary vote.

Turkey’s tough stance has helped propel global oil prices to new historic highs this week. Pipelines from Iraq and from Azerbaijan cross eastern Turkey, which hopes to become a major energy bridge between producer countries and Western markets.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government is under heavy public pressure to take tough action against the PKK in northern Iraq after a series of deadly attacks on Turkish soldiers and policemen in recent weeks which have killed around 30 people.

Earlier on Friday, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan demanded Baghdad close down PKK camps in mainly Kurdish northern Iraq and hand over the rebel leaders. Karayilan is among those on Ankara’s most-wanted list.

The United States and the Baghdad government have urged Turkey, which has NATO’s second largest army, to refrain from military action, fearing it could destabilize the wider region.

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

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