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Rice Assures Turkey US Opposes PKK Terrorism from Iraq


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Turkish leaders in Ankara the United States is committed to Iraq's unity, and to fighting the Turkish-Kurdish extremist group PKK that has operated from northern Iraq.

Ms. Rice's talks in Turkey, spanning two days, focused on Iraq and, in particular, Turkish concerns about Kurdish separatism there, and a possible renewal of terrorism against Turkey by the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers Party.

Some Turkish officials have accused the United States of being indifferent to Kurdish moves in northern Iraq they see as laying groundwork for a Kurdish state, which could fuel separatism among Turkey's Kurdish minority.

Turkish anxiety has only increased since Iraqi elections a week ago, in which Kurds turned out in large numbers, especially in the ethnically-mixed northern oil center of Kirkuk, seen as the potential capital of a Kurdish state.

At a closing news conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, Ms. Rice reiterated the U.S. commitment to the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq, an implicit rejection of Kurdish statehood, and to an Iraq, in which all its religious and ethnic factions are welcome and respected.

She also said she told her Turkish hosts that Iraq's territory should never be a place from which terrorism can be committed against its neighbors.

"Indeed, from the American point of view, whatever terrorist organizations wish to perpetrate crimes against populations have to be treated the same," she said. "Whether it is the al-Qaida, the PKK, or the Palestinian rejectionists, terrorism is simply not an acceptable tool in the modern world, and I wanted to be certain that the minister and his colleagues knew of America's commitment to rid the region of terrorism, including terrorism that might take place from the territory of Iraq."

Ms. Rice noted that the State Department has long listed the PKK as a terrorist organization.

Members of the group found refuge in northern Iraq before the U.S.-led invasion, and have declared an end to a five-year-old unilateral cease-fire with Turkey.

In an interview with Turkey's NTV news channel, the secretary of state stopped short of pledging U.S. military action against the PKK, citing a difficult security situation in the north and the Iraqi insurgency.

But she said the United States is determined to work with the Iraqis and with Turkey to make sure that the PKK cannot act, and said Turkey should understand what she termed the United States' absolute commitment on this.

Ms. Rice said Iraqis in their new democracy will have to ultimately decide the status of Kirkuk. But she said the city, home to large numbers of Kurds, ethnic-Turkish Turkmen and Iraqi Sunnis, must be a city in which all Iraqis are welcome, and can live without fear.

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