Iraq in deep trouble, Turkey says

Nov. 21, 2012 at 12:55 PM

ANKARA, Turkey, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- The Turkish prime minister said his government was concerned about security in neighboring Iraq, saying the central government there is "deeply in trouble."

Turkish forces have been engaged with Kurdish militants operating along the border with Iraq. Tensions with the central government in Baghdad were strained early this year when Ankara hosted fugitive Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who was sentenced to death in absentia by a Baghdad court for allegedly operating a death squad.

Turkish daily newspaper Today's Zaman reports that 12 Iraqi troops were killed this week in clashes with Kurdish paramilitary forces known as the Peshmerga.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying Ankara was concerned that tensions between Baghdad and the semiautonomous Kurdish government could escalate into sectarian warfare.

"Currently, the central government is deeply in trouble," he said. "The possible solidarity among Kurds, Turkmens and Arabs in Iraq will be a problem for the Iraqi government."

Ankara sided with Iyad Allawi, leader of the opposition Iraqiya slate, who challenged Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki during elections in 2010.

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