- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 31, 2007

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey has sent large contingents of reinforcements, tanks and armored personnel carriers to its border with Iraq as debate heats up over whether to conduct a cross-border offensive to hit Kurdish rebel bases.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday urged the United States and Iraq to destroy bases of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, in northern Iraq as the Turkish military deployed more tanks and soldiers on the border.

The images of military trucks rumbling along the remote border with Iraq’s Kurdish zone and tanks being transferred on trains and trucks to beef up an already formidable force there have occupied television screens and front pages of several newspapers in the past few weeks.

The Turkish military has said it routinely reinforces the border with Iraq in the summer to prevent infiltrations by guerrillas.

“The PKK must be eliminated as a problem between Iraq and Turkey,” Turkey’s special envoy to Iraq, Oguz Celikkol, told CNN-Turk television yesterday before a visit to Iraq to discuss Turkish demands that Iraqi and U.S. forces crack down on the group.

Asked whether Turkey could take unilateral action, Mr. Celikkol said: “Our expectation is that this issue is resolved before it comes to that point.”

In Washington, a State Department spokesman said the United States is not alarmed by the buildup, even as it tries to ease tensions between Turkey and Iraq’s Kurds.

“My understanding is that the military activity on the Turkish side of the border is part of their counterterrorism program,” spokesman Tom Casey said.

“We haven’t spoken to the Turkish government about this because we haven’t seen anything particularly unusual,” he said.

Staff writer David R. Sands contributed to this story.

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