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WASHINGTON — Turkey’s ambassador to the United States on Wednesday dismissed rumors that his country was preparing to launch military strikes inside Iraq but warned that officials are “losing patience” with terrorist attacks coming across their border.

“The Turkish people have come to the point where enough is enough,” said Nabi Sensoy, who has served as ambassador since January 2006. “If the U.S. government feels it has the right to intervene in Iraq to protect itself to fight terrorists, then Turkey should be able to protect its country from the activities of these terrorist organizations.”

Sensoy downplayed but would not rule out military incursions into Iraq to deal with members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which Turkish officials have blamed for a series of recent bombings and years of terrorist attacks inside Turkey’s borders.

Turkish officials have pushed U.S. military leaders to take a more active role in the fight against the group since the war in Iraq began, including pushing Iraq to classify the group as a terrorist organization.

But the PKK, which has long advocated for an independent Kurdish state in Northern Iraq and Southern Turkey, remains a popular political and social force with Kurdish Iraqis. Sensoy said the group is getting aid from those Iraqis, in some cases passing U.S. supplies along to PKK fighters.

“That does not mean the U.S. is supporting these terrorists,” he said. “But we know they now have sophisticated explosives, and in some cases other weapons of U.S. origin.”

Last week Iraq’s foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari, himself a Kurd, said Turkey has gathered more than 140,000 troops along its border in preparation for military strikes, but both Turkish and U.S. officials dismissed those claims. Sensoy said border patrol numbers have increased in recent months, but he would not give specific numbers.

He also said officials do not want to enter Iraq for fear of destabilizing that country, and would prefer the U.S. use more of its influence to stop the Kurdish support of the PKK.

“The U.S. has leverage with the Kurds,” Sensoy said. “If the U.S. Army is strong enough to go anywhere in the world to fight terrorism, it would be very difficult to turn to the Turkish people and say the United States is doing everything but they are not able to influence the northern Iraqis.”

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said U.S. officials are working with Turkish military leaders to address the PKK issue, but “we’ve also made it clear that any sort of military action into Iraq would be very unhelpful.”

Reporters Jeff Schogol and Lisa Burgess contributed to this report.


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