Iraqi PM to visit Turkey

July 30, 2007 - 0:0

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will visit Turkey next month to discuss security issues as the Turkish government weighs a possible offensive into northern Iraq to thwart Kurdish separatists.

Al-Maliki will travel to the Turkish capital Ankara in the second week of August, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said on Saturday. He declined to give a more specific date for security reasons. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued the invitation to al-Maliki earlier this month and warned of an incursion if the United States and Iraqi leaders failed to stem the Kurdish guerrillas operating from bases in northern Iraq. Erdogan's party won a new mandate last week, but it faces pressure from opposition parties that say it lacks determination to stage an incursion, a move that could seriously strain ties with Iraq and Turkey's NATO ally, the United States. ""This visit will be a security and political one as there are many important issues between the two neighboring countries like the presence of PKK in northern Iraq,"" al-Dabbagh said, referring to the acronym for the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party. ""The Iraqi government is keen to develop bilateral relations after the elections and is looking forward to have Turkey as an important partner to Iraq,"" he added. Turkey has been fighting PKK rebels since 1984 in a war that has killed tens of thousands