Turkey Rebuffs U.S. Over Iraq Attack
Turkey said Feb. 28 its offensive against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq will continue "as long as necessary," rejecting pressure for a speedy end to the military incursion from Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Even as Gates held talks in Ankara, Turkish warplanes bombed positions of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in northern Iraq and intensive fighting was reported on the ground near a major rebel base in the Zap area, Iraqi security sources said.
Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul refused to offer a timetable for a pull-out while giving assurances that the incursion, launched on Feb. 21, posed no challenge to Iraqi sovereignity.
"Turkey will remain in northern Iraq as long as necessary," Gonul said after talks with Gates, adding that the troops will return home once PKK hideouts are destroyed.
"There is no need for us to stay there after we finish the terrorist infrastructure... We have no intention to interfere in (Iraqi) domestic politics, no intention to occupy any area," he said.
Gates pressed for the offensive to be "as short and precisely targeted as possible," and reiterated that it should last no longer than "a week or two".
Washington is particularly concerned that the incursion could broaden into a wider conflict between Turkish forces and the Kurdish administrators of northern Iraq -- two key U.S. allies.
1) Turkey Rebuffs U.S. Over Iraq Attack