(as another blogger says: “He sure does have a leg to stand on!”

)By Steve Negus, Iraq correspondent, and Vincent Boland in Ankara
Published: June 3 2007 18:41 Last updated: June 3 2007 18:41

Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, on Sunday warned Turkey not to invade northern Iraq amid a build-up of Turkish forces on the border between the two countries.

There is an intense internal debate in Turkey about whether Ankara should push across the border to root out guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), based inside the Kurdish autonomous region of northern Iraq. Turkey accuses the PKK of launching attacks inside Turkish territory.

The Turkish government, which faces a general election next month, has appeared so far to want to avoid a military incursion. But a bomb attack in Ankara two weeks ago in which six people were killed, has been blamed on Kurdish separatists and put the issue of terrorism, and Turkey’s appropriate response to it, at the top of the election agenda.

The military holds a spring offensive in the region every year, but the build-up in recent days has taken on an ominous dimension amid ever-louder rhetoric from Turkey’s senior generals about the need to crush PKK fighters.

Speaking at a security conference in Singapore, Mr Gates expressed sympathy for Turkey’s “genuine concern with Kurdish terrorism that takes place on Turkish soil”.

However, he added that the US hoped that there “would not be a unilateral military action across the border into Iraq”.


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