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Turkish Minister Calls for US Action Against Kurdish Guerrillas


Turkey's defense minister told U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates the United States must take "tangible action" against Kurdish guerrillas in Northern Iraq, whose latest attack killed at least 12 Turkish soldiers, wounded 16 and left 10 missing. But the minister also indicated unilateral Turkish action is not imminent. The men spoke after a meeting in Kiev Sunday, and VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Ukrainian capital.

Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul emerged from a half-hour meeting with Secretary Gates saying Turkey wants U.S. action.

GONUL: "So far, we shared intelligence and they did some things, but we would like to have something tangible, tangible. We are expecting this.

PESSIN: "Tangible military action, you mean?"

GONUL: "Any kind of tangible actions."

Minister Gonul said the Turkish people are suffering from the attacks by group known as the PKK, and, in his words, "our boys are dying." But at the same time, he indicated that while Turkish military planners are working on a possible incursion into Iraq, authorized by parliament last week, action is not imminent.

"Not urgently," said Vecdi Gonul. "They are planning. They are planning to cross [the] border because, firstly, the intelligence is important, getting enough information. And we [would] like to do these things with the Americans."

Secretary Gates welcomed that approach.

"I am heartened that he seems to be implying a reluctance on their part to act unilaterally, and I think that is a good thing," said Robert Gates.

But the secretary would not say what action the United States is prepared to take, short of more intelligence sharing.

"We have done a number of things in terms of cooperating with the government of Turkey," he said. "I think that the first and foremost challenge that we face, as is so often the case with terrorism, is actionable intelligence. And I told him that lacking actionable intelligence, for them to send a large force across the border without any specific target was likely to lead to a lot of collateral damage that nobody needed."

Secretary Gates says he and his Turkish counterpart also discussed the pending U.S. congressional resolution that would label the Turkish mass killing of Armenians early in the last century a 'genocide.' A U.S. official says Secretary Gates told Minister Gonul a Turkish attack inside Iraq would make it more likely the resolution might pass, which the secretary believes would hurt U.S.-Turkish defense cooperation, crucial to the U.S. effort in Iraq. Secretary Gates says he also called on Turkey to pursue reconciliation with Armenia.

Secretary Gates said he repeated his view that a Turkish military incursion into Iraq would be bad for all concerned.

"I told him that restraint should not be confused with weakness, that a major cross-border operation would be contrary to Turkey's interests, as well as to our own and that of Iraq," said Secretary Gates. "I told him that we should work together on this."

Secretary Gates and Minister Gonul met on the sidelines of a conference of the Southeastern Europe Defense Ministers' group. Minister Gonul reports the Turkish Prime Minister will visit President Bush in two weeks, but he would not promise Turkey will hold its reaction to the latest Kurdish attacks until then, saying the decision on when to act is a tactical matter.