US calls for Iraq to take 'swift' action on PKK

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WASHINGTON, Oct 22 (Reuters) The United States pressed the Iraqi government and Kurdish leaders to move quickly to stop Kurdish rebel attacks against Turkey and said today it did not want to see the conflict widen along the border.

President George W Bush expressed his ''deep concern'' about the Kurdish rebel attacks and told Turkish President Abdullah Gul that the United States would continue to urge the Iraqis to take action against the PKK, the White House said.

Bush also spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and they agreed to work with Turkey to prevent the Kurdish rebels from carrying out attacks from Iraqi soil, the White House said.

The United States and Iraq had been asking Turkey to show restraint, but Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan faces increasing domestic pressure to show force against the Kurdish rebels after eight Turkish soldiers went missing and at least 12 soldiers were killed in clashes near the Iraqi border.

The United States has stressed to the Turkish, Iraqi and Kurdish leadership that the cross-border attacks by the outlawed Kurdish Workers Party, or PKK, must stop.

''We want the Iraqi government to take swift action to stop the activity of the PKK,'' White House spokesman Tony Fratto said.

But the Iraqi government has little control over the largely autonomous northern region and analysts say the United States must pressure Iraqi Kurds to take action against the rebels to avoid further escalation with Turkey.

''We do not want to see wider military action on the northern border,'' Fratto said. He condemned the attacks and called the PKK a terrorist organization.

Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the United States could do more to help Ankara, such as launching special forces operations against the Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq.

''Turkey has been asking the United States to assist with routing out the PKK that are in the mountainous areas of northern Iraq for several years and the United States has not been willing to undertake a major operation because it has had its hands full with other challenges in Iraq,'' she said.

The office of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, said the rebels would announce a cease-fire on Monday evening.

Turkey said it would exhaust diplomatic channels before launching any military strike.

Reuters AK VP0246

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