Thursday, May 31, 2007

Kurds Expose Iranian Arms Shipment Through Turkey

Turkish authorities have seized weapons hidden on a Syria-bound train from Iran after Kurdish separatist fighters derailed it with a bomb, a prosecutor said.

The arms were found by authorities after the attack on the train on Friday near the town of Genc in southeastern Bingol province, Ismail Sari said on Wednesday.

The Iranian embassy issued a statement on Wednesday denying that the weapons belonged to Iran.

The bomb attack on the train coinicides with Turkey's military build-up on its border with Iraq, which Ankara says is necessary to limit activities of Kurdish separatist groups based in northern Iraq.

The private Dogan news agency said the weapons on the train included a rocket launch pad and 300 rockets.

Turkish authorities suspect Iran is using Turkey as a transit route to send arms to Hezbollah, the Shia group in Lebanon, via Syria.

Meanwhile, Turkey has continued to send military reinforcements to its border with Iraq, amid debate over whether to launch raids on bases of the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) in northern Iraq.

"The PKK must be eliminated as a problem between Iraq and Turkey," said Oguz Celikkol, Turkey's special envoy to Iraq, said on Wednesday.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister, on Tuesday called for the US and Iraq to destroy the PKK bases in northern Iraq.

He did not rule out a cross-border Turkish operation.

"Our patience has run out. The necessary steps will be taken when needed," Erdogan said.

Asked whether Iraqi authorities had been informed about a possible cross-border Turkish operation, Levent Bilman, Turkey's foreign ministry spokesman, said the decision was "only Turkey's business."

"We do not have to inform anybody about the possibility of such an intervention," he said.

Why do I get the feeling the Turks would not have "found" these weapons if the Kurds had not derailed the train?

Maybe our good NATO allies could use a little help from the US inspecting trains coming from Iran.