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Wednesday, January 2, 2008       Free Headline Alerts

U.S., Turkey operating joint intel center for northern Iraq

WASHINGTON — Turkey and the United States established an intelligence center to monitor Kurdish rebels in Iraq.

The Defense Department said the Ankara Coordination Center was created in the summer of 2007 to promote intelligence-sharing between the two countries. The Pentagon said the center was employed in Turkish military strikes against the Kurdish Workers Party in northern Iraq in late December.

"Our stated goal is to share intelligence about PKK holdouts and operations," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said.

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In a briefing on Dec. 21, Morrell said the center was used to coordinate the Turkish strikes against the PKK. He said the United States was provided "ample notification" of plans to conduct air strikes against PKK positions in the Kandil mountains on Dec. 16.

Officials said the Ankara Coordination Center was meant to relay Turkish and U.S. intelligence on PKK activities and positions in Iraq. They said the center served as the conduit to relay Turkey's intentions for an air strike.

"This [intelligence center] has been open for some months now — I think it dates back to this summer — in which you have Turkish military personnel along with U.S. military personnel working to share intelligence," Morrell said. "And with that system in place, I believe the actual communication went from the Turkish General Staff to the Ankara Coordination Center. Within the coordination center it was relayed to our folks, and from there it goes to a wider audience within our operation."

The center was first disclosed in wake of a meeting between President George Bush and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan on Nov. 5. At the time, officials said the intelligence facility was not yet operational.

"We have a cooperative relationship with this old and close ally," Morrell said. "There is coordination, there is notification, but there is not permission sought. And as far as this building is concerned, the coordination that took place was adequate."

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino echoed Morrell regarding U.S.-Turkish intelligence cooperation. Ms. Perino said Ankara and Washington share intelligence on the PKK.

"We are coordinating with the Turkish and Iraqi authorities in the area," Ms. Perino said. "So we continue to share information, share intelligence. The Turks have moved forward with our coordination and in communication with the Iraqis in order to eradicate that threat."

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