Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's troops have carried out an incursion into a sector of northern Iraq controlled by the Kurds, opposition groups charged.
"An infantry brigade and two Iraqi army units have advanced toward the village of Badraa ... and occupied the heights above it," the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) said in a statement received in Dubai late Monday.
"The advance of Iraqi troops is aimed at invading and controlling Badraa and the nearby villages," it charged, referring to a region around 10 kilometers (six miles) inside the Kurdish safe haven.
The Iraqi National Congress, an opposition coalition, said the nearby village of Ain Sifni was already occupied. "After clashes with KDP forces, Iraq sent an infantry brigade to back up the two others deployed in the region," it said.
Kurdish factions have controlled most of northern Iraq ever since Baghdad's defeat in the 1991 Gulf War over Kuwait.
A UN source, contacted by AFP, said Tuesday that UN offices in Iraqi Kurdistan were looking into the reported incursion but they had no confirmation of any large-scale fighting.
"The unjustified actions of Iraqi forces constitute a threat to the inhabitants of the (Kurdish) region," the KDP said, calling for Iraqi troops "to withdraw to their previous positions to avoid an escalation."
"We are committed to a peaceful and fair settlement to the Kurdish issue. Any attempt to return by force to the Kurdistan region is totally rejected and will lead to other catastrophes for the Iraqi people," it warned.
The Kurdish enclave is protected by a western security umbrella, with US and British warplanes based in Turkey enforcing a no-fly zone over northern Iraq to keep out Iraqi aircraft -- DUBAI (AFP)
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