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Bush Pledges to Help Turkey with Threat from Militant Kurds

Recep Tayyip Erdogan (l) with George W. Bush at the White House
The White House says it is working with Turkish officials to stop cross-border raids by ethnic-Kurdish rebels based in Northern Iraq. President Bush met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Wednesday.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan says the president and prime minister discussed a wide range of issues from Cyprus and Syria to reconstruction in Afghanistan.

Turkish officials say Prime Minister Erdogan was most interested in gaining additional support from Washington to stop cross-border raids from Iraq that Turkey says are being carried out by members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party.

While neither leader mentioned the issue in remarks to reporter, Mr. McClellan says it did come up in their Oval Office talks, and the men agreed to work together to stop the rebels, who are also known by their group's initials, the PKK.

"The PKK is an organization that we consider a terrorist organization," he said. "The two leaders had a good discussion about how we can move forward to address the threat from the PKK. We are committed to going after and getting rid of terrorists who are inside Iraq and terrorists who are trying to come into Iraq."

Mr. McClellan says Washington is working with the Turkish government and the transitional government in Iraq to stop cross-border violence which has been on the rise since the collapse of a PKK ceasefire declared after the capture of their leader in 1999.

Kurds make up about 20 percent of Turkey's population. Ankara is concerned about support for Turkish Kurds from Kurds in Iraq who enjoy wide autonomy within Iraq's transitional government.

Following their talks, President Bush told Prime Minister Erdogan that Turkey's democracy is an important example for the broader Middle East. He says they both agreed to continue working with Palestinians to establish the conditions for a separate Palestinian state.