U.S. watches rumblings in, around Iraq

USA TODAY
September 9, 1996, Monday, INTERNATIONAL EDITION
BYLINE: Tom Squitieri
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 1A
LENGTH: 314 words
DATELINE: NORTHERN IRAQ

NORTHERN IRAQ — Continued fighting here and Turkey’s establishment of a security zone along its border with Iraq prompted a U.S. warning on Sunday that Washington would not allow Baghdad to threaten regional stability.

The latest incidents in the region came a week after Baghdad sent troops to northern Iraq, taking the main city of Irbil and ousting Kurdish factions opposed to Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Iraq’s move into the northern “no-fly” zone set up by the United Nations after the gulf war in 1991, prompted U.S. cruise-missile attacks on southern Iraq.

Gen. John Shalikashvili, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned on Sunday that Washington will not stand “idly by” if Saddam threatens his people or the region.

But he also appeared to play down Iraq’s role in new fighting in northern Iraq. Responding to reports that two more northern Kurdish cities — Degala and Koi Sanjaq — had fallen to Baghdad-supported Kurd and possibly Iraqi forces, Shalikashvili told NBC News’ Meet the Press, Saddam had withdrawn most of his troops from the area.

“What you’re seeing is Kurdish fighting,” he said.

Meanwhile, Turkey began establishing a 5- to 12-mile buffer zone inside its border with Iraq.

Iraq warned Turkey against setting up the security zone: “We will take every necessary action in our part to prevent it,” said Hamed Youssef Hummadi, a member of Iraq’s parliament. He did not elaborate.

Concern was growing elsewhere in the region that ongoing conflict would spill over. Members of the Gulf Cooperation Council meeting in Saudi Arabia Gulf said the Council “strongly condemns the interference of some neighboring countries in northern Iraq.”

The statement apparently referred to reported Iranian support for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Turkey’s plans to set up a buffer zone.