( Reuters ) - U.S. President George W. Bush, facing Turkish threats of a military strike against Kurdish rebels in Iraq, told Turkey's leader on Monday that he was committed to countering the militants and offered to share intelligence with Ankara.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who met Bush at the White House, has made clear he wants concrete action from Washington to combat the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which has been launching attacks on Turkey from Iraqi soil.
"The PKK is a terrorist organization. They're an enemy of Turkey, they're an enemy of Iraq and they're an enemy of the United States," Bush told reporters after their talks.
Ankara is impatient at what it considers U.S. and Iraqi foot-dragging over the threat from the Kurdish Workers Party militants and has massed 100,000 troops on the Iraqi border for a possible offensive.
Bush is worried that any offensive could destabilize a part of Iraq that has so far escaped much of the violence plaguing other areas of the country. U.S. officials also worry that Turkish action could lead to a wider crisis in the region.
But Bush dismissed as "hypothetical" a question about the potential impact of a Turkish incursion.
"We talked about the need to have better intelligence sharing," Bush said. "In order to chase down people who murder people, you need good intelligence. We talked about the need for our militaries to stay in constant contact."
NATO-member Turkey is a crucial ally for Washington, which uses Incirlik air base to provide logistical support for its forces in Iraq.
Bush said Erdogan had strongly urged the United States to work with Iraqi leaders to cut off money flows to the Kurdish rebel group.
ERDOGAN 'HAPPY' WITH TALKS
Erdogan gave little indication of his thinking regarding military action in northern Iraq, although he reminded Bush that Turkey's parliament last month had authorized the government to take action across the border "if necessary."
"This is a mandate for a cross-border operation that solely aims (at) the PKK. It cannot and it does not cover civilians," Erdogan said through a translator.
At a separate appearance at the National Press Club later, Erdogan said he was "happy" with how the talks with Bush had gone.
He seemed particularly pleased by Bush's labeling of the PKK as an enemy, a phrase U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had also used during a visit to Turkey last weekend.
"I suppose I don't need to explain what we understand from the word enemy," Erdogan said.
Turkish officials had suggested ahead of the White House meeting that the session could be crucial to determining whether Turkey would decide whether to move large numbers of troops into Iraq.
Erdogan is facing strong public pressure to hunt down the Kurdish rebels after a series of attacks on Turkish soldiers in recent weeks. However, some of the pressure could be eased by the release on Sunday of eight Turkish soldiers.
"It sounds as if President Bush did not go beyond the statements of support that had been offered before," said Bulent Aliriza, an expert on Turkey at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. He said it was not clear whether the assurances Bush offered would satisfy Ankara.