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US Could Take Action Against PKK with Proper Information, says Defense Chief

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the United States might be willing to take action against Kurdish insurgents who attack Turkey from northern Iraq if it had good information about their location. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.

Secretary Gates says the United States would like to help Turkey fight the Kurdish Workers Party, known as the PKK. But it does not have enough specific information to take military action.

"I think that if we were to come up with specific information that we and the Iraqis would be prepared to do the appropriate thing. And if we had information on them in Turkey, that we would provide that information. So we are determined to work with the Turks in trying to reduce this threat to the Turkish people and the Turkish army," he said.

Secretary Gates' comment was somewhat different from what other defense officials said in recent days. They said fighting the PKK is not a priority for U.S. forces in Iraq, and they lack the troops as well as the information to attack the group.

Secretary Gates said the PKK fighters are "basically terrorists," who cause "harm and heartbreak" in their attacks. `

But he urged Turkey not to take military action in Northern Iraq, where the PKK is based, even though its parliament authorized such action on Wednesday. U.S. officials have urged a diplomatic approach, and praised efforts by Iraqi leaders to work with Turkey to find a solution to the PKK cross-border attacks. Secretary Gates says U.S. officials are also urging the leaders of Iraq's northern Kurdish autonomous region to take action to stop the attacks.

The secretary says he will discuss the issue with Turkey's defense minister during a visit to Europe next week.

Secretary Gates also again warned of the consequences if the U.S. Congress passes a resolution that would label the Turkish mass killing of Armenians early in the last century as "genocide."

It now appears that the resolution may not pass, but Secretary Gates says if it does he has no doubt that Turkey will retaliate by cutting U.S. access to the key base at Incirlik.

"I don't think the Turks are bluffing. I think it is that meaningful to them. I think they see implications in terms of reparations and perhaps even borders. And so I think there's a very real risk of perhaps them not shutting us down at Incirlik, but of placing restrictions on us that would have the same effect," he said.

Secretary Gates repeated that 70 percent of U.S. military air cargo bound for Iraq uses Incirlik, and that a third of the fuel for the Iraq operation goes through Turkey by road.

The secretary met with Armenia's defense minister on Thursday, but he says they did not discuss the congressional resolution.