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Turkish President to Visit US in January


The White House says Turkish President Abdullah Gul will make his first visit to Washington as president next month for talks on efforts to counter Kurdish rebels based in northern Iraq.

A White House spokesman Scott Stanzel Friday said President Bush will welcome his Turkish counterpart to Washington on January 8. He said the two leaders will discuss issues of mutual concern, including Afghanistan, Iraq and Turkey's efforts to join the European Union.

But the talks are expected to focus on efforts to counter separatist rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

The Turkish military has launched an offensive against the PKK in response to a series of deadly ambushes by PKK rebels in southeastern Turkey in recent months.

A U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey Friday said the U.S., Turkey and Iraq have a common enemy in the PKK.

But Casey said any actions against the rebels should take into consideration respect for civilian life and well-being in northern Iraq. He said it is also important that any action is done in a coordinated fashion, with discussion between the Iraqi and Turkish governments.

Turkish warplanes bombed suspected PKK hideouts in northern Iraq Wednesday for the fourth time in five days.

The Turkish parliament authorized cross-border operations against the group in October.

The PKK has been fighting for self-rule in southeastern Turkey since 1984. The conflict has killed more than 30,000 people.

The United States, Turkey and the European Union consider the PKK a terrorist organization.

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