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THE WORLD

Talk but no promises as Bush meets with Turkish premier

November 06, 2007|James Gerstenzang | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — President Bush and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey sought Monday to resolve serious differences over the fight against Iraq-based Kurdish guerrillas, agreeing on the need to share intelligence to end their deadly raids.

"Good, sound intelligence delivered on a real-time basis, using modern technology, will make it much easier to deal effectively with people who are using murder as a weapon to achieve political objectives," Bush said after the two met in the Oval Office.

But there was no indication that Erdogan received a U.S. commitment to take specific steps that Turkey is seeking to counter Kurdish militants based in northern Iraq.

U.S.-Turkish cooperation is critical to U.S. foreign policy and counter-terrorism efforts, but ties have been strained by the Iraq-based attacks against Turkish troops. Over U.S. objections, the Turkish parliament recently authorized the government to dispatch troops to Iraq in operations against the Kurdistan Workers Party, known as the PKK. Both countries regard the PKK as a terrorist organization.

Bush and Erdogan have dealt with the sensitive issue while fending off a U.S. congressional resolution that condemns as genocide the attacks by Ottoman Turks on Armenians beginning in 1915. The resolution was set aside, partly out of fear that the Erdogan government would retaliate by halting its central role in the shipment of military cargo into Iraq.

With his tete-a-tete with Erdogan, Bush began a week of diplomatic conferences focused on some of Washington's most important relationships. He will host French President Nicolas Sarkozy for dinner today and for official talks Wednesday. At the end of the week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her husband will stay with the president and Laura Bush at their home outside Crawford, Texas.

After their meeting, Bush said he and Erdogan spoke about the need "to make sure that there is good enough intelligence so that we can help deal with a common problem -- and that problem is a terrorist organization called PKK."

A senior Bush administration official, speaking on White House rules of anonymity, said the administration had looked at concrete steps over the last week.

"We had some ideas. The Turks have had some ideas. The Iraqis have had some ideas. The Kurds have had some ideas," the official said.

The United States wants to avoid any steps that would anger the Kurds, key allies in the region who provide an element of stability.

The only concrete step to which officials would point -- and one Bush raised in his remarks -- involved stepped-up contacts between the second-highest-ranking Turkish military officer and his U.S. counterpart, as well as with Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

Last week, Turkish Ambassador Nabi Sensoy said his government expected concrete action on three fronts: shutting down five active PKK bases in Iraq, cutting logistics and support lines that continue to supply PKK fighters in Iraq, and blocking movement of PKK members and their political affiliates in northern Iraq.

Erdogan, in a speech immediately after he left the White House, complained that Turkey had not received "the international support she deserves" in fighting "PKK terrorism, which creates the biggest blow to peace and civility in the region."

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james.gerstenzang@latimes.com

Times staff writer Theo Milonopoulos contributed to this report.

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