Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan emphatically denies reports he is suffering from cancer, but Obama is worried.

Western intelligence sources told DebkaFile Sunday that Erdogan is suffering from rectosigmoid cancer, but it is not known what stage the disease has reached.

The Turkish daily Today’s Zaman reported last week that Health Minister Recep Akdağ said, "Our prime minister is in good health, but we recommended he gets some rest following recent laparoscopic surgery."

His condition forced him to cancel a scheduled visit to Qatar last week. Erdogan has been unusually quiet and out of the public eye since his surgery on November 26, but official photographs show him smiling and hosting foreign officials the same day.

Despite the denials that Erdogan has cancer, officials have given no explanation why he was being treated in a special room. Erdogan is usually featured in Turkish newspapers almost every day, but he has been conspicuously absent from the pages of two of Turkey’s most popular dailies, Today’s Zaman and Hurriyet.

His prolonged absence from public life and his “rest" outside of the capital of Ankara is worrying the Obama administration, especially in view of the instability in Syria, according to DebkaFile’s sources. If Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad directly involves Iran in the Syrian crisis, Turkey’s response could be critical to further developments in the Middle East.

President Obama regards Erdogan as a friend and reportedly has spoken with him on the phone at least 14 times this year.

With Erdogan away from the capital, signs have grown of a power struggle within his ruling party.