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The U.S. wants Turkey to end its incursion into northern Iraq immediately. That's the message from Defense Secretary Robert Gates who's in Ankara today for meetings with top Turkish officials. Thousands of Turkish troops entered northern Iraq last week.
Ankara says the operation is aimed at Kurdish separatists who've launched cross-border attacks into Turkey.
NPR's Guy Raz reports.
GUY RAZ: After days of treading softly, Secretary Gates is now asking Turkey to wrap it up.
Secretary ROBERT GATES (U.S. Department of Defense): It's very important that Turks make this operation as short as possible, and then leave. They have to be mindful of Iraqi sovereignty.
Turkish troops crossed into northern Iraq last Thursday, a campaign, Ankara says, to target Kurdish guerillas that operate out of base camps along Iraq's mountainous border with Turkey.
The Turkish military claims it's killed more than 230 Kurdish rebels since the incursion, separatists who've been battling the Turkish army since 1984.
In Baghdad, Iraqi officials have condemned the operation, fearing it could inflame the population in a largely ethnic Kurdish north. Here is Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.
Mr. HOSHYAR ZEBARI (Foreign Minister, Iraq): There are serious concern that this could escalate.
RAZ: But a Turkish envoy in Baghdad says his government has no timetable for a withdrawal despite Washington's demand. Here is Gates again.
Sec. GATES: I measure quick in terms of days, a week or two, something like that, not months.
RAZ: Senior defense officials traveling with Gates say the delegation debated whether to cancel this previously scheduled visit to Ankara. The Pentagon provides Turkey with key intelligence on Kurdish guerilla activity in northern Iraq, but there are murmurings among Pentagon officials that if the incursion continues much longer, they may temporarily halt that intelligence exchange.
Guy Raz, NPR News, Ankara.
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