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Iraq incursion finished, Turkey says

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The Turkish military has pulled out of northern Iraq a week after launching an offensive against Kurdish rebels, the military said in a statement on its Web site.

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Exhausted Turkish troops return to Turkey Friday after a weeklong incursion into Iraq to quell Kurdish rebels.

Ground forces from Turkey crossed into Iraq a week ago in an operation that targeted the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which has launched attacks in Turkey from Iraq.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said in a phone interview that the Turkish military is no longer in the mainly Kurdish region of Iraq.

In a posting on its Web site, the Turkish military said, "The objective of the operation set at the beginning has been achieved."

While "completely liquidating the terrorist organization" was not possible, "Turkey has shown the organization that northern Iraq is not a safe haven for them," it said.

The military said 240 rebels were killed and 27 troops died, including three "temporary village guards," the military said.

Zebari said his government demanded that Turkish troops withdraw, and recently conveyed the message to a visiting Turkish delegation. He also said the United States played an instrumental role in bringing about Turkey's decision. Video Watch how the U.S. applied pressure »

"The United States was worried and embarrassed and anxious" about the situation, he said, adding that Washington feared "escalation and destabilization and backlash also for the entire region."

The Bush administration put its "full weight" behind bringing an end to the operation, and reminding "all parties that there are other ways" to address the PKK threats and border security "through joint action, not unilateral action," Zebari said.

But in its statement, the Turkish military denied responding to pressure.

"Both the start and end dates of the operation were decided by us solely based on military reasoning and necessities," and any "influence, either foreign or domestic, on this decision by the Turkish Armed Forces is out of [the] question," it said.

Turkey sent a delegation to Baghdad this week to defend the incursion. Ahmet Davutoglu, chief foreign policy adviser to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Wednesday, "The objective is the elimination of the PKK terrorism."

In its statement Friday, Turkey's military said it will continue to closely monitor northern Iraq, and Turkey "will not allow any threat from the region. The fight against terrorism will continue with determination both inside and outside Turkey.

"The people that have joined the terrorist organization for whatever reason should understand that they will not achieve any results by bloodshed."

The PKK formed in 1974 with the goal of creating an independent Kurdish state but has more recently advocated for some level of autonomy, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, which has its headquarters in New York.

The Iraqi government opposes the PKK presence, but it viewed the Turkish military incursion as a violation of its sovereignty.

The United States labels the PKK a terrorist organization and has urged Turkey this week to limit the duration of its military incursion.

On Thursday, President Bush and Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged Turkish troops to quickly achieve their objectives and end the incursion.

"The Turks, the Americans and the Iraqis, including the Iraqi Kurds, share a common enemy in the PKK," Bush said at a White House news conference.

"It's in nobody's interest that there be safe haven for people who ... have the willingness to kill innocent people," he said, referring to the PKK.

In the Turkish capital, Ankara, Gates encouraged Turkey not to drag out its military operation longer than is necessary.

"The United States believes the current offensive should be as short and precisely targeted as possible," he said Thursday after meeting with Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul.

"The Turkish government should make clear to the Iraqi government, and everyone concerned, exactly what their intentions are and the limited goals and scope of their operations," he said, calling Turkey to balance its need for self-defense with Iraq's sovereignty.

Gonul said Turkey would stay in northern Iraq only as long as necessary.

"We have no intention to occupy any area," he said, noting that it is purely a "law and order action."

In Iraq on Friday, the Iraqi Presidential Council approved the execution of Ali Hassan al-Majeed, better known as "Chemical Ali," for his role in 1980s attacks that killed tens of thousands in the Kurdish-dominated north.

Also Friday, gunmen in Mosul, Iraq, kidnapped Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Faraj Rahho and killed three of his bodyguards, police said.

Gunmen attacked Rahho's car as he was leaving a church in Mosul, about 260 miles north of Baghdad.

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Christians are a tiny fraction of Iraq's population, but have come under attack.

A 2007 U.S. State Department report says that only half of the estimated 1.2 million Christians living in Iraq before the U.S. invasion have stayed in the country. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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