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US Defense Chief to Tell Turkey to Quickly Conclude Iraq Military Operation


U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he will tell Turkish leaders that they must conclude their military operation in northern Iraq within the next two weeks.

Gates is due in Ankara Wednesday, almost one week after Turkish ground troops launched a military incursion into northern Iraq to battle rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK.

The U.S. defense chief says he will reiterate Washington's position that Turkey's military operation should end as quickly as possible.

But a senior Turkish envoy says Ankara will not set a timetable for withdrawing its forces until the rebels are dealt with. Ahmet Davutoglu made the comment Wednesday after meeting the Iraqi foreign minister Hoshiyar Zebari in Baghdad.

The Iraqi government says Turkey's military action violates Iraqi sovereignty. Iraq has called on Ankara to immediately withdraw its troops.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has defended his country's military offensive, calling it a "rightful struggle."

Turkey's military says it has killed 230 Kurdish rebels and lost 24 of its soldiers in the fighting. The rebels have said the military is inflating the rebel death toll.

The PKK has been fighting for autonomy in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast since 1984. That violence has killed more than 30,000 people.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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