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Bush Calls for Quick End to Turkey's Iraq Incursion


President Bush is calling for Turkey to end its military operation against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq as soon as possible. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports Mr. Bush talked about the Turkish offensive during a nationally broadcast White House news conference.

President Bush says the operation must be limited in nature.

"The Turks need to move, move quickly, achieve their objective and get out," he said.

The Bush administration has been walking a diplomatic tightrope throughout the Turkish cross-border offensive, which began a week ago. It is seeking to support Turkey in its fight against terrorists, while backing Iraqi sovereignty.

Turkey maintains Kurdish extremists - members of the Kurdistan Workers Party, known as the PKK - have been launching attacks from northern Iraq on Turkish military personnel and civilians.

President Bush says Turkey, Iraq and the United States all agree the Kurdish rebels pose a threat that must be addressed.

"It is in nobody's interest that there be safe haven for people who have the willingness to kill innocent people," he said.

Mr. Bush spoke shortly after U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates delivered the same message personally to Turkish leaders in Ankara.

Gates said they did not offer a timetable for ending the military offensive, but he said the United States will continue to provide Turkey with intelligence useful in tracking PKK targets.

At his news conference, the president also urged the U.S. Congress to stand with American troops in Iraq, and stop talking about cutting funding for the war.

Speaking after yet another Senate debate led by opponents of the president's war strategy, Mr. Bush suggested these lawmakers are ignoring signs of progress.

"In the face of these changes on the ground, congressional leaders are still sounding the same old call for withdrawal," he said. "I guess you could say that when it comes to pushing for withdrawal, their strategy is to stay the course."

The president said it is important to keep enough troops in Iraq to ensure that key political, economic and security goals are met. He also stressed that a quick American pull-out would enable al-Qaida to make good on its stated desire to set up a base of operations in Iraq.