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Iraqi, Turkish Leaders Agree to Cooperate Against Kurdish Rebels


The prime ministers of Iraq and Turkey have agreed to step up cooperation in the fight against Kurdish separatists in Northern Iraq. The agreement was announced during talks in Turkey's capital, Ankara. Dorian Jones has this report for VOA from Istanbul.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki arrived in Ankara amid Turkish concerns about the resurgence of Kurdish rebel activity in northern Iraq.

Ankara has been demanding that Iraq take action to halt attacks by rebels of the Kurdish Workers Party or PKK, who have killed dozens of Turkish soldiers over the past year. Ankara says the PKK has been using bases in northern Iraq to launch attacks inside Turkey.

After a four-hour meeting with Mr. Maliki, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said they had agreed to step up cooperation to halt the attacks.

Mr. Erdogan said he used the meeting to express Turkey's determination to fight terrorism, starting with the PKK. He said the two leaders reached an agreement on a stronger, more effective effort.

But Mr. Maliki told the Turkish leader that the agreement to chase down the PKK would first have to be ratified by Iraq's parliament.

Political observers say Turkey has been bolstering its troops along the border with northern Iraq and was expected to warn the Iraqi leader that Turkish patience is running out. Turkey has threatened to stage an incursion into northern Iraq to deal with the PKK, which has been fighting for autonomy in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast since 1984.

The U.S. and Iraq say a Turkish cross-border operation could destabilize Iraq's relatively calm Kurdish north.

"You cannot constantly be engaged in saber rattling and not at one point feel compelled to show that you can use it," said Soli Ozel, a Turkish political scientist.

In addition to security, the Turkish and Iraqi leaders discussed trade, and Turkey pledged to supply more electricity to Iraq.

The two leaders also discussed the future of the oil rich Iraqi city of Kirkuk. Later this year, the city is due to hold a referendum. Many analysts predict it will vote in favor of joining the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdish enclave.

According to analyst Aramgan Kuloglu, Ankara fears if that happens the oil wealth of Kirkuk could bankroll an independent Kurdish state, which Turkey opposes.

"This Kurdish state will gain an extra and huge economic power," he said. "The aim of the Kurdish people is to create a greater Kurdistan, and a greater Kurdistan territory covers some Turkish territory, some Syrian territory and some Iran territory."

Mr. Maliki's government, which is committed to holding Iraq together, is believed to share these concerns over Kirkuk. The future of Kirkuk is also expected to be on Mr. Maliki's agenda when he visits Iran on Wednesday.

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