Iraqi PM insists Turkish troops withdraw from fighting Islamic State

BAGHDAD -- Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called for the immediate withdrawal of Turkish troops from northern Iraq in a national address Friday night, insisting no foreign forces are needed to fight the Islamic State group in his country.

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Turkey has had troops in northern Iraq to help train local Kurdish and Sunni forces since last year, but the arrival of additional troops last week sparked an uproar in Baghdad. Turkey subsequently halted new deployments but has refused to withdraw its soldiers.

Iraq has already tried to solve the crisis with "peaceful and diplomatic means," Abadi said in the televised address. "We gave our neighbour Turkey a time limit to withdraw its troops and not to close the door to dialogue."

Earlier Friday, Abadi asked the Foreign Ministry to submit a complaint to the United Nations about the presence of Turkish troops near the IS-held city of Mosul.

Abadi asked the UN Security Council to "shoulder its responsibilities" and order the withdrawal of the Turkish troops.

"This is a flagrant violation of the provisions and principles of the UN Charter and in violation of the sanctity of Iraqi territory," a statement from his office said.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power, the current council president, said Friday night that the Iraqi ambassador had delivered a letter in Arabic, but it had not yet been translated.

"There's growing alarm from the Iraqi government," Power said. "Any troop deployment must have the consent of the Iraqi government."

Iraq's religious leaders also admonished Turkey during a sermon in Karbala. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said Turkey should not have sent "troops to the territory of another state under the pretext of supporting the fight against terrorism" and called on the Iraqi government to "protect the sovereignty of Iraq."

The representative of the cleric, Ahmed al-Safi, relayed al-Sistani's words during a Friday sermon.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that Turkey has no plans to withdraw troops and would continue with the training process "in agreement" with Iraq. He did not elaborate.

Erdogan defended Turkey's move to send more troops, saying IS and other terror groups were "running wild" and Baghdad was unable to protect Turkish soldiers there.

"Are we to wait for the invitation of the central Iraqi government when there is an attack to our country? We have no such luxury," Erdogan said.

Earlier, a government statement said Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan and Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu met with Iraqi officials in Baghdad and the sides agreed to work toward forming "new mechanisms" to deepen co-operation in security.

Associated Press writers Suzan Frazer in Ankara, Susannah George in Baghdad and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.


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