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Clinton arrives in Turkey on repair mission

world Updated: Mar 07, 2009 08:28 IST

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Ankara on Saturday for a visit aimed at repairing relations with Turkey damaged over the Iraq war.

"The Obama administration has a chance to rebuild on a better footing after the most acute problems accumulated in the Bush administration have finally been taken off" the table, a senior US official said on condition of anonymity.

Turkey, a NATO member, refused in 2003 to open a northern front against Iraq from its territory for the United States, provoking a chill in relations between Ankara and Washington.

Ankara was extremely concerned about the possibility of the emergence of an independent Kurdish state in nothern Iraq.

After years of complaining to president George W. Bush that Kurdish PKK rebels using northern Iraq as a safe haven to stage attacks, Turkish forces attacked PKK bases in northern Iraq.

Relations only began to improve in 2007 when the United States began to share intelligence information on PKK movements in northern Iraq, said the official.

During the one-day visit, Clinton is to meet with President Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ali Babacan.

Earlier in the week Babican said Ankara would look favorably on a US request -- yet to be made -- for its troops to transit through Turkey as they withdraw from Iraq.

Using Turkey to supply US operations in Afghanistan was also expected to be discussed, as well as Iran and energy security.

Clinton was also expected to discuss the Middle East, with Turkey having brokered several rounds of indirect talks between Israel and Syria last year.