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U.S., Turkey Discuss Kurdish Rebels

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Mon Jan 3, 2:55 PM ET

By SUZAN FRASER, Associated Press Writer


ANKARA, Turkey - The U.S. State Department's No. 2 official discussed security preparations for this month's Iraq  election during a Monday meeting with Turkish officials, who pressed him to move against thousands of autonomy-seeking Turkish Kurds based in northern Iraq.

But with U.S. troops battling a bloody insurgency in Iraq and warnings of even more violent attacks by rebels hoping to affect the Jan. 30 election, the United States has made clear it has no intention of cracking down on the rebels any time soon.

"We are going to have, we hope in the near future, a trilateral meeting here to discuss the whole question of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party)," Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said after meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul. He did not elaborate.

Turkey pressed the United States to move against the estimated 4,000-5,000 rebels based in the mountains of northern Iraq and considered by Washington to be a terrorist group.

Turkey raised concerns over what it believes are attempts by Iraqi Kurds to try to solidify their presence in the oil-rich and ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk, at the expense of the Turkmen — a group akin to the Turks, a Turkish official said on condition of anonymity.

But Armitage said Turkmen and Kurds were forcibly displaced and efforts were being made to address the problem.

The PKK has battled government forces in a conflict that has claimed 37,000 lives since 1984. Clashes tapered off after a rebel truce in 1999, but there has been a surge in violence since June 1, when the rebels declared an end to the cease-fire, saying Turkey had not responded in kind.

Ties between longtime allies Washington and Ankara have been strained over U.S. policy in Iraq. Anti-American sentiment has increased in Muslim-dominated but secular Turkey, especially after a recent U.S. offensive on the former rebel stronghold of Fallujah, Iraq.

One senior Turkish lawmaker accused U.S. troops of committing genocide in Iraq, while Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Vice President Dick Cheney of Turkey's concerns about last year's Fallujah offensive.

On Monday, Gul said Turkey attached great importance to ties with Washington.

"Turkish-American ties come above everything else, they are traditional," he said.

Armitage also met Parliament Speaker Bulent Arinc and Chief of General Staff Gen. Hilmi Ozkok.

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Created by keza
Last modified 2005-01-04 06:29 PM

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