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US Reacts Cautiously to Turkish Air Strikes in Iraq

The Bush administration is encouraging greater coordination between Turkey and Iraq, following Turkish air strikes targeting Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq. From Washington, VOA's Michael Bowman reports.

The State Department declined to comment specifically on Turkey's air strikes, widely reported to be the largest attack on Kurdish rebels in years. But spokesman Tom Casey says the United States continues to believe that militants of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, known as the PKK, cannot be tolerated.

"We remain concerned by the threat posed by the PKK to Turkey, to Iraq and to the United States, and we think it is important that everything be done to deal with that threat," said Tom Casey.

At the same time, Casey urged all governments involved to act in a coordinated and cooperative manner.

"We want to make sure there is close coordination between Iraq, Turkey and the United States as well, as we move forward to try to deal with it [the PKK threat]," he said. "I know that in this instance we certainly would like to make sure that if there are any questions concerning coordination between the Turkish and Iraqi sides on this, that they be addressed through some of the mechanisms that have been set up to ensure that there is an appropriate channel of communication."

Iraq has condemned the Turkish military action as an attack on its sovereignty. Turkish officials are quoted as saying that the United States provided intelligence and opened air space over Iraq to allow the strikes to go forward.

The Pentagon has not commented on this specific case, but says the United States has a policy of information sharing and cooperation with Turkey when it comes to combating Kurdish rebels.

Turkey blames the PKK for tens of thousands of deaths since the group launched an armed struggle for a Kurdish homeland more than 20 years ago. Both Turkey and Iraq have large Kurdish populations.