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US Opposes Independent Iraq Kurd State, says Bush
Paula Wolfson
VOA, White House
28 Jan 2004, 20:05 UTC


President Bush has met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House. Mr. Bush reassured the Turkish leader that the United States does not want to see Iraq's Kurds get their own state.

It is a crucial issue for Turkey, which has been dealing with a Kurdish separatist movement within its own borders.

President Bush tried to ease the concerns of Turkish leaders. He did not refer specifically to the fate of the Iraqi Kurds, but his meaning was clear.

"I assured him that the United States' ambition is for a peaceful country, a democratic Iraq that is territorially intact," he said.

The Kurds of northern Iraq have lived in relative autonomy since the end of the 1991 Gulf War. Mr. Bush left no doubt he sees their future as part of a multi-ethnic Iraq, and not part of a breakaway nation that might inflame separatist ambitions among Kurds in neighboring countries.

His words were generally in line with past administration comments, although officials have gone to some length to note that the matter will ultimately be decided by a new Iraqi government once the transfer of power from coalition authorities is complete.

Speaking to reporters at the end of the White House meeting, Prime Minister Erdogan seemed pleased with the words he heard from the president.

"We share the same views regarding our strategic partnership in restructuring Iraq," he said.

Both men also spoke of the ongoing war on terrorism, with Mr. Bush taking note of the bombings late last year that rocked Istanbul.

"Both of us understand what it means to have our fellow citizens destroyed by merciless killing of terrorists," the president said.

The Turkish prime minister said fighting terrorism is a common effort, and thanked the United States for listing the new name for the former Kurdistan Worker's Party as a terrorist organization.

Another issue on the agenda for the meeting was the status of Cyprus, which for three decades has been controlled by Turkish-Cypriots in the north and Greek Cypriots in the south. Mr. Erdogan said his country supports negotiations based on a plan put forward by U.N. Secretary- General Kofi Annan to resolve the dispute.

"I state once again that the Turkish side is determined for a solution, we will always be a step ahead of our Greek counterparts and we're determined to solve this as soon as possible," he said.

President Bush and Prime Minister Erdogan are expected to meet again in June, when NATO leaders gather in Istanbul for an alliance summit.