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US, Britain, Press Iraq on PKK Attacks in Turkey


The United States and Britain made a joint call late Monday for Iraq to take immediate steps to halt cross-border attacks by Iraqi-based Kurdish PKK militants into Turkey. The issue dominated a Washington meeting between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

Rice and her British counterpart are welcoming statements by the Iraqi government condemning the attacks by the PKK.

But they say it is time for the government in Baghdad and the Kurdish regional authorities in northern Iraq to take tangible action to halt the PKK operations, which have raised the specter of large-scale Turkish military intervention in Iraq.

The joint appeal by Rice and Miliband capped a day of intensive diplomatic activity on the Iraq-Turkey crisis that included a telephone call by President Bush to Turkish President Abdullah Gul stressing the U.S. commitment to work with Turkey and Iraq to combat PKK attacks.

The PKK, the Kurdistan Workers Party, has long been listed by the United States as a terrorist organization. It has been fighting the Turkish government for Kurdish self-rule in southeastern Turkey for more than 20 years and has recently stepped up hit-and-run attacks against Turkish forces and civilians from mountain hideouts in northern Iraq.

Iraq has maintained that PKK militants are operating out of rugged border areas beyond the reach of its security forces, while Turkey alleges that Iraqi Kurdish authorities have turned a blind eye to PKK activities. At a joint press appearance with Rice, Foreign Secretary Miliband said Iraq's stated promises to deal with the PKK are no longer enough:

"Words are not going to be sufficient," said David Miliband. "There needs to be real deeds. The hurt and anguish of the Turkish people is real and evident to anyone who looks at the situation."

Miliband said Iraqi action is essential if the Turkish government is to be able to resist public pressure to intervene in Iraq, action that U.S. officials say could shatter the relative peace of northern Iraq and have broader security and political consequences.

Rice, for her part, declined to specify what steps the United States might take beyond its own verbal expressions of support for Turkey and condemnation of the PKK, but said Washington takes the situation very seriously:

"The United States is determined to work with our allies in Iraq and to work with our allies in Turkey to try and deal with what is a very difficult situation of terrorism from a fairly remote part of northern Iraq," said Condoleezza Rice. "And it requires information-sharing, it requires a great deal of coordination. But I'm quite certain that we can sit down and we work this together if there's enough political will."

Rice and Miliband called for the convening of a U.S.-Iraq-Turkey security committee on the sidelines of a conference bringing together Iraq, its neighbors and major world powers scheduled for the first week of November in Istanbul.

They said the aim of the tripartite meeting would be to press for implementation of an anti-terrorism agreement reached by Turkey and Iraq on September 28.

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