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US, Turkey Plan Strategy to Oust Turkish Kurd Rebels from N. Iraq - 2003-10-02

The United States and Turkey have agreed on a joint action plan to remove Turkish Kurd rebels from northern Iraq. The deal comes as Turkey considers sending as many as 10,000 troops to help coalition forces police Iraq.

Speaking to reporters after meeting with top Turkish officials, the State Department's coordinator for counter-terrorism, Joseph Cofer Black, said the United States would seek to remove about 5,000 rebels belonging to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, known as PKK/KADEK, from their Iraqi base by using diplomacy, by cutting their access to external funding, and if need be, by military force.

Turkey has been demanding that the United States act against PKK/KADEK, before the country sends its forces to Iraq. The rebels waged a 15-year-long separatist insurgency against the Turkish army until 1999, when Turkey captured their leader, Abdullah Ocalan, and jailed him for life.

The United States has been reluctant to move against the rebellious Turkish Kurds, for fear that this would destabilize the Kurdish-controlled north of Iraq, where they are based.

U.S. officials have been hoping that the rebels would surrender under a recent amnesty law passed by the Turkish government. But the rebels rejected the amnesty, saying it does no go far enough.

Turkish officials say they expect the United States to arrest PKK/KADEK leaders and hand them over in the near future. Such a move, they say, would make it easier for Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to persuade the parliament to approve sending troops to Iraq.

Mr. Erdogan has told the private NTV news channel he expects to submit legislation on Turkish troops deployment in Iraq within two weeks.