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    Turkey tells Cheney won't send troops to Afghanistan

    Hurriyet English with wires
    25.03.2008 - 09:56 | Son Güncelleme:

    US Vice President met on Monday with Turkish leaders who told him they would not send more troops or money to Afghanistan for now, a senior US official told reporters after the talks. (UPDATED)

    "They were certainly, I think, happy to look at, to see whether there was any possibility of more they could do, but (offered) no immediate short-term commitments," AFP quoted the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, as saying. Cheney met with President Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and chief of general staff General Yasar Buyukanit on Monday in Ankara.

    In all three meetings, Cheney "got great expressions of support for the US backing in their fight against the PKK and how helpful the United States had been both with Turkey but also between Turkey and Iraq," the official said.     

    Erdogan said on Tuesday that Cheney did not ask Turkey to send more troops to Afghanistan. "We were not asked, in any way, to increase the number of (Turkish) soldiers in Afghanistan, during the talks with Cheney on Monday," Erdogan, in a visit to Bosnia, told journalists. The request was not made "during the meeting of the two delegations nor during the one-on-one talks," he added.

    Turkey has deployed 1,200 soldiers. They are deployed in relatively safe Kabul area but Ankara has so far refused to send combat troops to fight Taliban forces further south.

    Cheney left Turkey on Tuesday for the United States at the end of a nine-day overseas tour that also took him to the Middle East and Afghanistan.

    Besides Afghanistan Cheney also discussed with Turkish officials various issues such as the situation in Iraq, and Kosovo, as well as the peace process in the Middle East and international terrorism, the official Anatolian Agency reported.

    "All the Turks he (Cheney) met agree that Turkey needs to work -- not only with the Iraqi central government -- but they need to work with political forces and political leaders in northern Iraq as well," the official said, AFP reported.

    The U.S. shares real-time intelligence with Turkey, in its fight against the PKK separatists, who use bases in northern Iraq to launch attacks against Turkey.

    Ankara and Washington label PKK a terrorist organization and American officials repeatedly have said PKK is the common enemy of Turkey, the U.S. and Iraq.

    "They all said they have no problem with the population in northern Iraq, the Kurdish population, they want to have good relations," the official said aboard Cheney's official Air Force Two airplane. "They want to work cooperatively against the PKK. The vice president expressed appreciation for that and said that we would be fully supportive of trying to continue and enhance that cooperation."

    Cheney expressed their concerns over "nuclear armament program" of Iran. Erdogan said Iran should work with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and negotiate and solve the problem in a way to eliminate concerns of the international community, AA said.

    Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, and its enrichment work is aimed only at producing nuclear-generated electricity, not at making warheads.

    It has refused to suspend enrichment despite a third round of sanctions recently imposed on it by the United Nations Security Council.

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