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U.S. urges Iraq to move against Kurdish separatists

  • Story Highlights
  • White House calls on Iraqi authorities to "take effective measures"
  • Erdogan meets with cabinet to discuss response to attacks
  • At least 13 Turkish soldiers killed on Sunday in southeastern province
  • Kurdish group has been fighting Turkish forces for decades
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(CNN) -- The Bush administration Monday condemned the recent attacks by Kurdish separatist guerillas in Turkey that left up to 27 soldiers and civilians dead and urged Iraqi authorities to take action.

The Kurdistan Workers Party, known as the PKK, has fought Turkish troops in the country's heavily Kurdish southeast for decades.

Its attack on Turkish troops near the southeastern city of Sirnak left at least 13 soldiers dead Sunday. A September 29 attack in the same area killed 12 civilians.

Turkish troops shelled the guerrillas' escape routes after Sunday's attack, which took place near Turkey's border with northern Iraq's largely autonomous Kurdish territories.

The PKK has been using northern Iraq as a staging ground for attacks into NATO-ally Turkey, prompting Ankara to mass troops along the Iraqi frontier.

"PKK violence not only threatens Turkey, but also undermines the security and welfare of Iraq," U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement issued Monday evening. "Turkey and Iraq have vowed to collaborate in the fight against terrorism ... We call on Iraqi authorities to take effective measures against the PKK."

Iraq signed an agreement with Turkey in late September to crack down on the militants.

Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan, President Abdullah Gul and Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, the chief of staff of the Turkish military, met in Ankara to discuss a response to the latest attacks. Erdogan met separately with his Cabinet afterward.

"All topics in relation to terrorism were discussed," Erdogan aide Cemil Cicek said. "We decided to take all measures as government. Our decisive position continues."

Further discussions are scheduled for Wednesday morning in Ankara, Cicek said.

The conflict between Turkey and the PKK has left more than 37,000 dead in Turkey over more than two decades. The United States and the European Union have designated the PKK a terrorist organization.

In July, Iraq accused Turkish troops of bombarding northern Iraqi towns as part of an operation against the PKK. The Turkish government denied knowledge of the incident.

The separatists also have caused friction between Iraq and Iran, which has its own Kurdish population. Iraqi Kurdish authorities accused Iranian troops of shelling targets across the frontier in August, prompting villagers in the Iraqi province of Sulaimaniya to flee their homes. Iran denied the allegations.

Iraq's neighbors are wary of Kurdish separatist aspirations. But Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a longtime Kurdish leader, told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" on Sunday that an independent Kurdistan is not a realistic goal.

"I don't think that Turkey or Iran or Syria will accept this, so, we must be realistic," Talabani said. "Now the interests of the Kurdish people are in the framework of a united, democratic, federative Iraq." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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