Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has formally rejected a bid from Turkey to participate in the military push to retake the northern Iraqi city of Mosul from Islamic State extremists.
Abadi, speaking Saturday, said the existing alliance would handle the battle without Turkey's help.
Abadi spoke in Baghdad, after unscheduled talks with visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who has sought to ease rising tensions between Turkey's Sunni leadership and Abadi's Shi'ite government.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday gave voice to the frayed bilateral ties, demanding a role in the Mosul battle and warning that Turkish troops already positioned in northern Iraq would not take orders from the Shi'ite government in Baghdad.
"Turkey's army has not lost enough of its quality to take orders from you," Erdogan said in comments aimed at Abadi.
On Saturday, Abadi responded.
"The battle of Mosul is an Iraqi one," he said. "The Iraqis plan and carry out the fight. I know that the Turks want to participate; we tell them thank you, this is something the Iraqis will handle, and the Iraqis will liberate Mosul and the rest of the territories."
For his part, Carter, speaking to reporters in Baghdad, said the issue of a Turkish role in the Mosul fight was a difficult subject. He also stressed that Iraq's sovereignty was paramount in the push against Islamic State.
"I also reaffirm to you today the vital importance of every country operating with full respect for Iraqi sovereignty," he said. "That is the principle upon which the international coalition and everything that it does in this country is 100 percent committed to, and I wanted to say that and confirm that to you."
As Carter met with Iraqi leaders and coalition commanders in Iraq on Saturday, renewed fighting was reported on the outskirts of Iraq's second-largest city, in a battle expected to rage for weeks or longer.
Iraqi special forces engaged IS militants near Bartella, which was retaken Thursday. No one was injured, but the incident highlighted the dangers Iraqi forces still face in areas that have been taken back from the militants.
Nearby, U.S. advisers and allied troops at a logistical base south of Mosul were coping with potentially toxic fumes after IS militants bombed a nearby sulfur plant on Thursday. Witnesses said the fumes hospitalized hundreds of locals who complained of breathing problems.
When winds shifted Saturday toward the south, U.S. military officials took air samples to determine the extent of the immediate threat.
Separately, an Iraqi television journalist was killed Saturday as he was covering a battle near the village of al-Shura, south of Mosul. Al-Sumaria TV said on its website that the journalist was Ali Raysan.
Also, Iraqi officials said that Friday's coordinated assault by IS fighters in the strategic northern oil city of Kirkuk had ended in failure, with all attackers either killed in battle or blown up by their own explosives.
Carter and Erdogan
On Friday, Carter and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in Ankara to discuss the need to increase military cooperation between the U.S. and Turkey in the campaign to defeat IS in Iraq and Syria.
A U.S. Defense Department statement said the leaders agreed to maintain frequent communication and close coordination among members of the coalition fighting IS to ensure a "lasting defeat" of the terrorist group.
The Turkish and Iraqi governments have been feuding about the presence of an estimated 1,000 Turkish troops encamped since late last year near Turkey's border to train Sunni and Kurdish fighters.
Baghdad has repeatedly called on Turkey to withdraw the troops, a demand the Ankara government continues to reject.
Source: Voice of America