Turkey Tells US, Iraq to Destroy Kurdish Bases

ANKARA (Associate Press–Turkey’s prime minister Tuesday said the U.S. and Iraq should destroy bases of separatist Kurdish guerrillas in northern Iraq. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told private NTV television in an interview that Turkey was expecting the U.S. and Iraq to destroy bases of Kurdish guerrillas in northern Iraq. Erdogan didn’t rule out a cross-border Turkish operation against the rebels. "We expect the United States and Iraq to destroy, scatter bases of terrorists there," Erdogan said. "The target is to achieve results. Our patience has run out. The necessary steps will be taken when needed," Erdogan said. Erdogan said the technical, military and diplomatic aspects of a possible cross-border incursion were being evaluated. The US opposes Turkish military action in Iraq, fearing it could destabilize the calmest part of the country. Ankara has repeatedly expressed its disappointment with Washington for what it says is a failure to crack down on Kurdish rebels who take refuge in northern Iraq and frequently attack soldiers and government targets in Turkey. The PKK has been fighting for autonomy since 1984. Tens of thousands of people have died. The rebel group is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union. Turkish troops say they have killed 10 guerrillas in the country’s southeast since Monday. Turkey asked the United States formally on Tuesday to avoid another violation of its airspace after an incident that exposed tensions between the NATO allies. Last week, two U.S. F-16 warplanes briefly infringed Turkish airspace near the Iraqi border. U.S. diplomats say the incident was an "accident." Turkish media say it was intended to send a message to Ankara not to send its troops into northern Iraq. "After we received detailed technical information from the General Staff on the incident, the necessary diplomatic initiative was made today in the presence of (a representative of) the U.S. embassy," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. A Turkish Foreign Ministry official told Reuters: "In the note given (to the embassy representative) it was requested that this kind of incident not be repeated." The incident has coincided with increased media speculation in Turkey, which faces a national election in July, of a possible Turkish military incursion into northern Iraq to crush Turkish Kurdish rebels hiding there. Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said on Friday there were no preparations in parliament to give approval to send troops into Iraq. In its statement on Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry said it was working closely with the General Staff on the issue. Turkish newspapers have suggested the two institutions have not been coordinating their actions. The General Staff recently helped prevent Gul, a former Islamist, being elected president in an election in parliament that has now been postponed.

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