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Iraqi President Visits Turkey

Iraq's President Jalal Talabani has begun a 2- day visit to the Turkish capital Ankara. The visit comes a week after Turkish forces ended an 8-day incursion into northern Iraq in a move against Kurdish rebels. Dorian Jones reports for VOA from Istanbul.

After two years of postponements, Mr. Talabani met with his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul.

Speaking to reporters after the talks, President Gul stressed the importance of the visit.

He said Mr. Talabani's visit is important for peace for the region.

He said Turkey would never accept the existence of terrorists, and he called on rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, to lay down their arms.

Mr. Talabani focused on moving forward.

He said Iraq will press the Kurdish rebels, who are operating from Iraq, to disarm.

He said the two countries should work together to solve problems.

President Talabani's visit comes at a critical time.

Last Friday, Turkish forces ended an incursion into northern Iraq aimed at destroying PKK bases. Ankara accuses the rebels of using Iraq as a base to launch attacks against security forces in Turkey.

During the incursion, Baghdad called the Turkish operation an infringement on Iraq's territorial integrity.

Mr. Gul is believed to have pressed his Iraqi counterpart to do more to reign in the PKK. The Iraqi president is an ethnic Kurd, and Kurds control a semi-autonomous enclave in northern Iraq. The PKK operates from within that enclave.

Turkish officials suspect that Iraq's Kurds are intent on declaring an independent Kurdish state. They fear this would embolden Turkey's Kurdish minority.

Such concerns led former Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer to snub Mr. Talabani.

According to political analyst Akif Emre, little of substance can be expected during the Talabani visit. "We cannot say very radical changing, but the importance of this visit is much more symbolic than any diplomatic and practical improvements," he said.

Less contentious issues such as improving trade and building a natural gas pipeline between the two countries are also on the agenda during the Iraqi president's visit.