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Turkey's President, In Iraq, Urges PKK Rebel Crackdown

Turkish troops near the border with Iraq, where Kurdish guerrillas have organized and launched attacks in southeastern Turkey.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- Turkish President Abdullah Gul has urged Iraq to crack down on Kurdish separatist rebels during a visit to Baghdad, adding that Iraq would only then see "100 percent cooperation" from its neighbors.

Gul is the first Turkish head of state to come to Iraq in more than three decades, the latest sign of strengthening ties between the two countries. Relations have been strained in the past by Kurdish guerrillas who have used northern Iraq as a base from which to launch attacks in southeastern Turkey.

"As it [Iraq] normalizes, Iraq must control its territory and cannot allow terrorists to operate," Gul told reporters traveling with him on his plane, referring to Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels. "Iraq needs to quash the terrorist organization and only then will it get 100 percent cooperation from its neighbours."

Gul's visit comes less than a year after Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan came to Baghdad, marking a milestone in Iraq's efforts to end its regional isolation after U.S.-led troops toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Turkey regularly shells PKK targets in Iraq. It killed at least four PKK guerrillas this month. The rebels are fighting for an independent ethnic homeland in southeastern Turkey.

A spokesman for the Kurdish Regional Government told Reuters that Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani would meet Gul, and that security issues would be high on the agenda.

A week ago, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, told a Turkish newspaper that the prospect of Kurds carving a separate nation out of northern Iraq was "impossible," an effort to calm Turkey's fears of Kurdish separatism.

In January, Turkey, Iraq, and the United States agreed to set up a joint command center in northern Iraq to gather intelligence to fight the PKK, whom they consider terrorists.

Turkey and Iraq are major trading partners, and some 400,000 barrels of Iraqi oil a day -- more than one-fifth of Iraqi exports -- are piped through the Turkish port of Ceyhan. Iraqi officials have made several trips to Turkey in recent years.

Another issue likely to be discussed by Gul and Iraqi officials is the allocation of water from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which originate in Turkey but flow through Iraq. Turkish dams have exacerbated Iraqi water shortages.