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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kurdish Rebels Halt Advance

ZAKHU, Iraq -- Kurdish rebels said they halted their advance outside northern Iraq's provincial capital Tuesday, urging the population to rebel against a rival, Iraqi-backed faction that controls the city.

The capture of Irbil last month by the Kurdistan Democratic Party, or KDP, was aided by Iraqi troops. There has been no indication that Saddam Hussein's troops have intervened as the Iranian-backed Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, or PUK, marched back to the city.

But Turkey's Prime Minister Tansu Ciller said Tuesday, "We are receiving reports about the presence of Iranian troops among PUK forces in northern Iraq.''

Saddam's forces are unlikely to remain out of the fray if substantial Iranian involvement in the fighting is confirmed. The two countries fought a war from 1980 to 1988 in which millions died.

Until Mrs. Ciller's statement, only the pro-Baghdad forces had alleged that Iran had sent troops into Iraq.

A PUK spokesman in Nicosia, Cyprus, said that the group's fighters were in control of areas 20 kilometers southwest of Irbil.

Reached by telephone in London, spokesman Lateef Rashid said the PUK had no immediate intention to march on Irbil.

PUK leader Jalal Talabani said in remarks published Monday that his group, whose weekend offensive shattered a month-long lull in fighting, would rely on Irbil's million residents to oust the KDP.