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Rice Says Turkey Shares Concern Over Iran


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in Ankara for talks with Turkish leaders on Iran's nuclear program and developments in neighboring Iraq.

Speaking at a joint news conference with her Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul, Secretary of State Rice said she had covered a wide range of issues with the Turkish foreign minister.

"We have indeed had wide ranging discussions as would be befitting for the United States and Turkey," she said.

Rice said Turkey shared the concerns of the international community over Iran's nuclear program, concerns that grew as Iranian President Mohamed Ahmedinajad threatened to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty if economic sanctions were imposed on his country.

The Secretary also said she was "concerned" Iran was ready to share the nuclear technology it is developing with other countries, a reference to comments made Tuesday by Iran's spiritual leader.

Turkey's support for possible sanctions against Iran would be crucial. Turkey is a significant economic partner for Iran and one of its chief customers for natural gas piped through a line connecting the two countries. Iran conducts the bulk of it its overland trade with Europe through Turkey.

Turkish foreign minister Gul stressed that Turkey hoped the deadlock with Iran would be resolved through diplomacy and he said Ankara would push for a deal.

Iraq was the other main issue tackled in Tuesday's talks, with Turkey pushing for U.S. military action against Kurdish separatist rebels based in northern Iraq.

Foreign Minister Gul acknowledged U.S. support in Turkey's battle against the group called the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK, but said more needed to be done to curb the rebels.

Gul added that a recent Turkish troop buildup along the Iraqi border did not mean Turkey was preparing to carry out cross border operations in pursuit of the rebels. He said the buildup was routine and aimed at clearing out rebel pockets within Turkey.

Iraqi Kurdish leaders are opposed to any Turkish incursions. Rice appeared to support their position by saying measures to combat the PKK should not threaten Iraq's stability. Rice added that once a new Iraqi government is formed, a plan to deal with the PKK problem could be more effectively addressed in tripartite talks with Turkey and the United States.

Rice, who is scheduled to leave Turkey early Wednesday is also scheduled to meet with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Ahmet Necdet Sezer.

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