Rice failed to change our minds, Turks say

  • Updated: November 3, 2007 - 5:57 PM

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - Turkish officials indicated Saturday that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had failed during two days of talks to persuade them not to send troops across the border to attack Kurdish rebels based in Iraq.

Even before Rice's plane had left the ground here, Turkish officials briefing reporters said they had heard nothing new during her visit and that tens of thousands of Turkish troops would remain poised at the Turkey-Iraq border.

"All options are on the table. How, when and whether or not to use these instruments is a matter of strategy for us," said Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan.

That means it falls to President Bush to persuade Turkey to hold back from military action when he meets Monday in Washington with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Any widespread Turkish incursion into Iraq would be a major embarrassment for the United States, which is responsible for Iraq's security, and would risk destabilizing the one region of Iraq that is relatively peaceful and enjoying an economic boom.

Iraqis move against PKK

Meanwhile, the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq sent police and local militia forces to close the offices of a Kurdish political party closely aligned with the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, as the rebels are known.

But there were no signs that Saturday's raids would extend into the mountain hideouts of the outlawed rebel group, and no arrests were made of leaders of the Kurdistan Democratic Solution Party, which Turkey alleges is a PKK front.

For months now, the Turkish government has been pressing Iraq and the United States to root out PKK fighters from Iraq's Kandil Mountains, where the Turkish government says the PKK has found safe haven to orchestrate deadly cross-border attacks on Turkish troops.

In the past month, guerrillas have killed 30 Turkish soldiers and captured eight in border battles. Thousands of rebel fighters are said to be training on Iraqi soil.

MCCLATCHY NEWS SERVICE

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