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Kurd Leader: Trump Approved Deal       10/17 06:20

   CEYLANPINAR, Turkey (AP) -- The U.S. President Donald Trump did not oppose a 
deal struck between the Syrian Kurdish-led forces, Russia and the Syrian 
government in Damascus to protect against a Turkish offensive in northeastern 
Syria, the commander of the force said as his fighters battled a new push by 
Ankara-backed fighters to seize a strategic border town.

   The commander of the Kurdish-led forces, Mazloum Abdi, said Trump 
essentially gave the go-ahead for the deal in a phone call Monday.

   The Kurds' deal, announced Sunday, came after Trump ordered U.S. troops to 
step aside as Turkey launched its attack last week. Under the agreement, forces 
of Syrian President Bashar Assad effectively replace the U.S. troops on the 
ground in the border areas, with Moscow guaranteeing the deal.

   "We told (Trump) that we are contacting the Syrian regime and the Russians 
in order to protect our country and land," Abdi, better known by his nom de 
guerre Mazloum Kobani, told a local TV station, Ronahi TV. "He said, 'We are 
not against that. We support that.'"

   Vice President Mike Pence, heading a U.S. delegation that includes Secretary 
of State Mike Pompeo, is set to arrive in Turkey Thursday afternoon, aiming to 
press Turkey to accept a cease-fire in its offensive. Before their arrival, 
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met with White House national 
security adviser Robert O'Brien.

   But on Wednesday, Trump dismissed the very crisis he sent his aides on an 
emergency mission to douse. Trump said the situation in northern Syria was 
under control and that the Syrian government was now protecting the Kurds.

   German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday once again called on Turkey to 
stop its military offensive in Syria, telling parliament that the offensive 
"makes tens of thousands, among them thousands of children, flee."

   She said the military operation "a humanitarian drama with big geopolitical 
consequences," strengthening the role of Russia and Iran.

   Syria's Kurdish fighters have allied with the U.S. since 2014 to fight 
Islamic State militants. Abdi said the priority now is to stop Turkey's 

   Abdi said his forces have frozen their activities to counter IS, other than 
defending themselves against the militants, who he said were taking advantage 
of the Turkish offensive. He said the militants have attacked prisons where 
fellow members are jailed and have freed some families of IS members from 
holding areas in displaced people's camps.

   Abdi said his forces will decide what to do with detained IS prisoners and 
their families.

   "The matter is in our hands. We captured them. We are holding them, and we 
will decide what to do with them. No one else," he told the channel.

   Merkel said both the Middle East and Europe are being made to feel insecure 
because prisoners of the Islamic State extremist group are no longer being 
adequately guarded by Kurdish-led forces. Those forces are now diverting their 
attention to the Turkish invasion.

   So far, Syrian troops have deployed in the border town of Kobani, further 
south and along a main highway to the east.

   But fighting for the strategic town of Ras al-Ayn continued, as 
Turkish-backed fighters make a new push for the town where the Kurdish-led 
group has put up stiff resistance. An Associated Press journalist on the 
Turkish side of the border reported heavy shelling into Ras al-Ayn.

   An Associated Press journalist said Turkish cross-border artillery fire 
targeted the town of Ras al-Ayn and areas beyond the town on Thursday. The 
shelling came despite Turkey announcing that it has captured the town three 
days ago.

   An official with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said the town saw 
"insane bombing" from the air and land as the Turkish-backed fighters launched 
a three-pronged attack.  They advanced slightly in the town but there were 
"fierce battles," the official spoke on condition of anonymity to describe 
operational details.

   The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the 
Turkish-backed forces have encircled Ras al-Ayn.

   The SDF official also said Syrian government forces have deployed south of 
Ras al-Ayn, near Tal Tamr and the highway there, taking a rear position behind 
the Kurdish forces.


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