Turkey says U.S. intelligence led to Iraq raids

WASHINGTON Wed Dec 19, 2007 6:36pm EST

1 of 2. A Turkish soldier patrols in an army vehicle on a road in the southeastern Turkish province of Sirnak, bordering Iraq, December 17, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Anatolian/Cem Ozdel

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. intelligence shared with Turkey led to the weekend raids in northern Iraq on Kurdish militants, Turkey's ambassador to the United States said on Wednesday.

"There is no doubt that this operation was possible due to, of course, the information shared by the United States of America," Turkey's Ambassador Nabi Sensoy told reporters.

He declined to say whether the United States had directly pinpointed targets for Turkish warplanes but he said the U.S. intelligence-sharing was very important.

The Pentagon has said Washington gave Turkey intelligence to track Kurdish fighters hiding in Iraq, but would not say whether it gave precise targets used in the raids.

The ambassador said the Turkish offensive in northern Iraq on Sunday involved about 50 fighter jets that launched two waves of attacks against positions of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq.

He said the attacks had seriously damaged infrastructure used by the PKK. "This must be a strong message to the PKK terrorists that the Turkish military is capable of tracking them down wherever they might be under any weather conditions, any time of the year," Sensoy said.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said the U.S. military was given ample notification of the air strikes from Turkey via a joint coordination center set up in Ankara.

"This (center) has been open for some months now, I think it dates back to this summer, in which you have Turkish military personnel along with U.S. military personnel working to share intelligence," said Morrell.

Ankara blames the PKK for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people since it began an armed struggle for a separate Kurdish homeland in 1984. It says some 3,000 PKK fighters are based in camps in northern Iraq.

MORE RAIDS POSSIBLE

Sensoy did not rule out further raids based on U.S. intelligence-sharing.

"This is not a once-and-for-all operation but I think it has served its purpose because of the fact that all of the targets have been hit with precision," said the ambassador.

"The ultimate target is the elimination of the PKK terrorist organization and Turkey will do whatever is necessary to achieve that," he added.

The United States has been trying to get Turkey and Iraq to cooperate over eradicating the PKK via a so-called tripartite mechanism involving the three countries.

Sensoy said this group had not produced any tangible results so far and the Iraqi government had failed to cooperate.

"I do hope that arrangement will be more useful to both sides in the future and that will depend on the determination of the Iraqi side," he added.

Turkey has also been critical in the past of what it saw as a lack of U.S. cooperation in trying to root out the PKK in northern Iraq but Sensoy said his government was happy with recent intelligence-sharing that followed a meeting last month between the U.S. president and Turkish premier in Washington.

But he said European countries such as Denmark, France and Austria must do more to curb PKK activities.

For example, he said Denmark was allowing a television station based on its territory to broadcast news on behalf of the PKK.

(Additional reporting by Kristin Roberts; editing by Patricia Wilson and David Wiessler)

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