Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pledged only modest U.S. help Tuesday as Turkey tries to counter a terrorist threat across its outlaw border with Iraq.
She asked for patience with the new Iraqi government as she encountered large anti-U.S. protests in two countries.
On another issue of vital interest in the region as well as globally, Rice said Washington is concerned about Iranian threats to share the nuclear technology it is developing with other countries.
We “have to be concerned when there are statements from Iran that Iran would not only have this technology, but would share it, share technology and expertise,” Rice said at a news conference in Turkey.
Earlier Tuesday, Iran’s top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said as he met with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir that “Iran’s nuclear capability is one example of various scientific capabilities in the country. ... The Islamic Republic of Iran is prepared to transfer the experience, knowledge and technology of its scientists.”
“That’s one of the fears,” Rice said, “that there would be that kind of escape, if you will, of technology and expertise.”
The U.S. is concerned that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, though Tehran says it is efforts are for nuclear energy.
The United States has been lobbying to isolate Iran if it does not stop its nuclear efforts or allow the monitoring of its nuclear program.
Fears about neighbor Iran
In Ankara, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said the Turkish separatist movement PKK has free run of a swath of northern Iraq, and has set up training camps and bases. Turkey fears that civil unrest in Iraq could lead to the fragmentation of the country, and has often called on the United States to stop PKK fighters from using Iraq as a base to stage attacks inside Turkey.
“We’ve shared our expectation that we expect more from them,” Gul said. “Especially, I have shared with Rice that the terrorist organization, benefiting from the power vacuum in northern Iraq, has started to damage Turkey again.”
Rice did not dispute that, but chose her words carefully.
“We believe that it is important that we make joint efforts, through information sharing and other means, to prevent ... any vacuum from being used as a way to inflict harm here in Turkey,” Rice said after meeting with Gul in the Turkish capital.
“We need to work with the new Iraqi government and we will do that.”
She said the United States, Turkey and Iraq can revive a three-way discussion of the PKK problem when the Iraqi leadership selected last weekend has formed the new, permanent government.
The United States wants Turkey to hold back from crossing the Iraq border to pursue suspected terrorists.
Demonstrations in Turkey
Islamic and leftist groups held separate anti-American demonstrations in the Turkish capital on Tuesday, hours before Rice’s visit.
In Istanbul, two youths were arrested after unfurling a large banner reading: “Murderer Rice Get Out” out of the window of the top floor of a McDonald’s fast food restaurant.
In Ankara, some 300 leftists demonstrated in a street just a few hundred yards away from a building where Rice is scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister Gul. They doused red paint over an American flag and toy dolls, representing children killed in Iraq.
Earlier visit to Greece
Rice met large and sometimes violent protests against the war in Iraq and U.S. foreign policy during diplomatic visit earlier Tuesday to Greece, with banners branding the top U.S. diplomat a murderer and killer.
Young rioters in masks smashed shop windows and torched a delivery van in Athens, and police fired tear gas at a crowd hurling gasoline bombs and rocks.
Police in full riot gear clashed with protesters trying to break through their cordon and police used teargas. The leftist and anti-war activists fired back with sticks, stones and petrol bombs.
Rice met Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and her Greek counterpart, Dora Bakoyanni, as part of a five-day trip to Europe that also includes a visit to Bulgaria.
Robust protest in Athens
Thousands of protesters, waving banners reading “Rice Go Home,” gathered in central Athens vowing to reach the heavily-guarded embassy but most retreated under the teargas.
A small group of anarchists trailing the march kept clashing with police, burning cars and smashing shop windows. There were no reports of injuries or arrests.
“This is an anti-war rally,” said protester Panayiotis Hiundis, 26, a school teacher. “We are not protesting just against Rice, but the imperialist, war-mongering U.S. government.”
The violence and more than a dozen tear gas canisters fired by police led to the breakup of a demonstration by about 3,000 people who had gathered in two separate rallies. One had been organized by the Communist Party, the other by anti-globalization activists.
“I am here to say no to the war against Iraq, against Iran and all the countries which disagree with American policies. Maybe there are many terrorists, but the people are innocent,” said protester Chris Vagenis.