Iraqi, Kurdish border tensions mount

Published Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Iraq's central government and the country's autonomous Kurdistan region have each sent troops to reinforce their internal border as tension builds between them in a feud over land and oil.

US officials were in contact on Tuesday with Iraqi and Kurdish leaders to ease tensions and the area, Tuz Khurmato, 170 kilometers (105 miles) north of Baghdad, appeared stable for now, according to Iraqi security and Kurdish sources.

A spokesman for the commander in chief of the Iraqi armed forces described the deployment as a "precautionary measure" and told Reuters the troops were under instruction to exercise the utmost self-restraint to avoid further escalation.

Earlier he warned Kurdish troops not to change positions or come close to government troops.

Tensions have been steadily building this week over the formation of a new command center for Iraqi forces to operate in an area over which both Baghdad and the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) claim jurisdiction.

"Our and Peshmerga are there to prevent the situation erupting because as soon as this command (Dijla) enters deep into the disputed areas... the area will ignite," said Azad Jendiani, spokesman for the political office of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan which jointly rules the Kurdish region.

Iraqi sources said dozens of Iraqi armored vehicles and tanks headed on Tuesday from a base in Taji, just north of Baghdad, to Tuz Khurmato, which lies in an area along the border demarcating the Kurdish region from the rest of the country.

Iraqi government officials did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment on the troop movements.

(Reuters)

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