ISTANBUL, Turkey - (AP) Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S.
ambassador to Baghdad, arrived in Istanbul for a surprise visit Sunday to
discuss Iraq with Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.
Turkey has long been pressuring the United States to crack down on
Kurdish rebels infiltrating into Turkey from northern Iraq.
It is also concerned by Iraqi Kurds' desire to expand the borders of
their self-ruled region to other parts of Iraq, especially oil-rich Kirkuk.
Turkey fears Kurdish expansionism might encourage Kurds in Turkey to press
for their own homeland. The Turks' Iraqi ethnic kinsmen, the Turkomen, also
consider Kirkuk as their homeland.
Turkey is also worried by reports that a Kurdish party, which Ankara
believes is linked to the Kurdish rebels fighting for autonomy in southeast
Turkey, was to participate in Iraq's Dec. 15 elections. Turkey, the United
States and the European Union have listed the rebel group as a terrorist
Khalilzad has been authorized by the U.S. State Department to meet
with Iranian officials about Iraq and his talks with Gul come just days
after Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki visited Turkey.
Khalilzad said this week he would urge Iranian officials to play a
more constructive role in Iraq because stability in the country would have
positive effects on the region.
But speaking in Turkey Thursday, Mottaki said Iran had no plans to
meet U.S. officials.
The United States and the Iraqi government have accused Syria, and
to a lesser extent Iran, of allowing foreign fighters to cross into the
country. Both countries deny the charges and say that Iraq's stability is in
The United States and Iran have not had regular diplomatic relations
since radical fundamentalists seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979.