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Turkey Offers Training for Iraqi Troops

Turkey's prime minister on Thursday offered training for the Iraqi police and army, and he urged power-sharing among ethnic groups in the Iraqi oil center of Kirkuk.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a news conference with his Iraqi counterpart, Nouri al-Maliki, that his nation was ready to offer training for Iraqi security forces to help achieve stability.

"We are ready to give every kind of support," he said. "We are ready to train them, in the military field, and in the police field."

Erdogan also addressed Turkey's fears that Iraqi Kurds are trying to take control of the northern city of Kirkuk as part of their push for an independent state on Turkey's border.

The city lies just south of the Kurdish autonomous region stretching across Iraq's northeast. Kurdish leaders want to annex the city. Iraq's constitution calls for a census and referendum on the issue by the end of next year.

"There needs to be a plan for Kirkuk that encompasses all the ethnic groups who live there," Erdogan said.

Turkey worries that ethnic and sectarian clashes are pulling Iraq toward a civil war that could break the country apart in several autonomous sections and lead to the emergence of an independent Kurdish state.

Such a development, some Turkish analysts say, could encourage separatist Kurds inside Turkey to revolt. Turkey is urging Iraq and the U.S. to root out Kurdish guerrillas, who have been waging hit-and-run attacks from Iraq in southeastern Turkey since 1984. More than 37,000 people in Turkey have died in the fighting.

Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul warned this week that allowing Iraq to split apart would force its neighbors to take action and usher in "an unbelievable new era of darkness."

Al-Maliki is being accompanied to Turkey by a large portion of his Cabinet, including Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, who is a Kurd, and economy-related ministers.

Iraq's minister of state for national security, Sherwan al-Waili, planned to meet Turkish security officials for talks on possible cooperation in Turkey's fight against Kurdish guerrillas.