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Bush Urges Turkey to Refrain From Cross-Border Operations in Iraq   


President Bush is urging Turkey to refrain from launching a cross-border offensive against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports Mr. Bush spoke at the White House as the Turkish parliament authorized such action.

President Bush says some Turkish troops have already been deployed in Iraq. But he makes clear a cross-border incursion aimed at Kurdish rebels would enflame an already volatile situation.

"We are making it very clear to Turkey that we do not think it is in their interest to send troops into Iraq, " said President Bush. "Actually, they have troops already stationed in Iraq. They have for some while. We do not think it is in their interest to send more troops in."

Speaking at a White House news conference, the president tried to strike a hopeful note. He said efforts are being made to calm the situation, and to encourage Turkey to refrain from action that could lead to a broader Iraqi war.

"What I am telling you is there is a lot of dialogue going on, and that is positive," said Mr. Bush.

Mr. Bush stressed that Iraqi leaders are engaged in diplomacy with Ankara on the Kurdish situation. He made specific mention of Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi's talks in Turkey leading up to the vote in parliament. President Bush said Hashimi has assured Turkish leaders that Iraq shares their concerns about attacks launched by Kurdish rebels across their common border.

"I appreciate very much the fact the Iraqi government understands that this is a sensitive issue with the Turks," he said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki also made personal appeals to Turkish officials prior to the parliament vote. Turkey - which has seen a rise in terrorist attacks by PKK rebels - has said the authorization is needed, but officials have stressed that the parliamentary action does not mean an attack is imminent.

Turkey has complained about a lack of U.S. support for its fight against the Kurdish rebels.

Further complicating matters is a non-binding resolution pending in the U.S. House of Representatives that has touched a raw nerve in Turkey. It calls the World War I-era massacre of Armenians under Ottoman rule a genocide.

The White House has been urging House leaders to drop the measure. President Bush repeated his position during his session with reporters.

"Congress has more important work to do than antagonizing a democratic ally in the Muslim world, especially one that is providing vital support for our military every day," said President Bush.

There are signs the administration's efforts to stop action on the House resolution are having an impact. Several original sponsors of the measure have withdrawn their support.

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