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For Turkey and U.S., Delicate Cooperation Issue in Combating Kurds

WASHINGTON -- Turkey provided the United States with ample warning that it was making an incursion into Iraq this week, officials from the State and Defense Departments said Wednesday.

The question of whether Turkish authorities gave their counterparts adequate warning percolated after some American officials in Washington and Baghdad said the two countries needed to improve communication, administration officials said.

While the United States provided Turkey with the intelligence to go after Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, there has been some mild grumbling from the State Department that not everyone up the chain of command was adequately informed beforehand. A senior administration official said most of that concern centered on Turkey's decision to "chase some bad guys they followed over the border."

Turkish troops carried out a brief attack into northern Iraq overnight Monday. The Turkish military, in a statement on its Web site, said the troops had inflicted heavy losses on the Kurdish forces after spotting them trying to cross into Turkey.

The operation took place two days after Turkey carried out broad airstrikes in northern Iraq against the group. The United States provided intelligence and opened Iraqi airspace for the strikes, American and Turkish officials said. Iraqi officials have protested the attacks.

The Turkish moves have placed the United States in a delicate position between Turkey, a NATO ally, and an Iraqi government that has refused to act against the Kurdish militants.

In trying to minimize the appearance of any rift, American military officers in Washington and overseas said the Turkish ground force sent across the border numbered only in the hundreds and moved less than two miles into Iraqi territory.

The senior Bush administration official said that, over all, American officials were satisfied with the coordination between the United States and Turkey. The United States, Iraq and Turkey have an office in Ankara, the Turkish capital, to share intelligence.

"Let me put it this way," said a Pentagon spokesman, Geoff Morrell, using the initials by which the Kurdistan Workers Party is known. "We had ample notification of the airstrikes by the Turkish Air Force over the weekend on PKK positions in northern Iraq. I can sit here today and tell you emphatically there was indeed notification provided to us prior to the bombing -- bombings -- that it was communicated to us through an apparatus that we have set up in Ankara, the Ankara Coordination Center."

The United States considers the PKK a terrorist organization. The group, which wants an autonomous Kurdish region in eastern Turkey, has fought the Turkish military for decades.

By Helene Cooper
International Herald Tribune

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