Iran has yet to decide on a call by Kurdish rebels for a ceasefire in a major offensive it launched along the Iraqi border last week, the elite Revolutionary Guards said on Monday. The Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) announced earlier it would observe a truce from Monday and called on Iran to reciprocate to prevent further bloodshed. "The heavy fire has prompted this terrorist group to call for a ceasefire, but Iran has yet to make a decision in this regard," Guards operations officer Colonel Hamid Ahmadi told Fars news agency. "More than 30 PJAK rebels were killed and 40 wounded until noon (0730 GMT) yesterday according to our reports," he said, adding the full death toll could well be higher as Iranian forces did not have complete access to the targeted areas. Ahmadi did not specify whether any Iranian ground forces had crossed the border during the offensive. He said any truce with the PJAK would be "meaningless" unless the rebels first withdrew from border areas to pave the way for talks, "if necessary".

PJAK spokesman Sherzad Kamangar told AFP in neighbouring Iraq earlier Monday the group had "made an initiative to cease fire for a specific time to start negotiations with the Iranian side, so we can solve the problems between us." He did not specify how long the ceasefire would last. A statement posted on PJAK's website on Sunday night said that "if Iran does not agree to the ceasefire, (it) will be responsible for any response" from PJAK fighters. "The latest events prove that the war will not solve our problems, but rather will increase them and make them deeper," the statement said, adding the ceasefire would take effect on Monday at 0900 GMT. An Iraqi Kurdish official said Iranian shelling had killed a woman civilian on Sunday. "Last night, Iran shelled several areas along the border in the Sidakan area... and the artillery fire killed one woman, Hamin Sadiq, and wounded two others," said Karmanj Izzat, mayor of Soran district, which includes Sidakan. Izzat added that "heavy shelling" was continuing in the Sidakan area on Monday afternoon. "The situation for people there is very bad; a large number of them left their houses," he said. PJAK rebels have clashed repeatedly with Iranian forces in recent years, drawing retaliatory bombing of their rear-bases in mountainous border districts of Iraqi Kurdistan. In July, Iran launched a major offensive against the rebels, shelling border districts for weeks. Commanders said they had halted operations during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan to give the rebels a chance to pull back from border areas but they had failed to do so, prompting the launch of the current offensive on Friday. Human Rights Watch said last week it had evidence Iran may have deliberately targeted civilians. It accused Turkey too of failing to take adequate precautions to protect civilians in its campaign of shelling and air raids against suspected rear-bases in northern Iraq of the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Ankara announced the resumption of operations against PKK rear-bases in mid-August. The group, which has links with the PJAK, has been fighting for Kurdish self-rule in southeastern Turkey since 1984. Read more...

2011-09-06 00:53:23
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