ANKARA, Turkey March 21 —
Turkey moved 1,000 soldiers into northern Iraq on Friday to beef
up its forces there, a Turkish military official said. Turkey
already maintains several thousand soldiers backed by a few dozen
tanks in northern Iraq to chase Turkish Kurdish guerrillas. Turkey
is also shifting some 5,000 soldiers to the border region, the
military official said, speaking on customary condition of
The Turkish foreign minister said Friday his nation was
determined to send its troops over the border into northern Iraq to
contain a possible refugee flow and prevent any attempt by Iraqi
Kurds to break away from Iraq.
Abdullah Gul's remarks came despite strong opposition in
Washington to any unilateral move by Turkey into northern Iraq. U.S.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday: "We don't see any need
for any Turkish incursions into northern Iraq."
But "Turkish soldiers will go in," Gul told reporters on his
return from a trip from Brussels.
Gul's statement came after Turkey agreed Friday to allow U.S.
overflights for a war with Iraq, reversing an earlier decision to
block Turkey's airspace because of a disagreement with the United
States over a Turkish troop deployment.
Washington has warned that a Turkish incursion could lead to
friendly fire incidents with U.S. forces. Iraqi Kurdish groups say
the move could lead to clashes.
In Washington, a senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of
anonymity, said Turkey opened its airspace without any conditions
attached, adding that the U.S. administration continued to discuss
the issue of Turkish troops separately.
Turkey's Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul also said Turkish and U.S.
officials would continue negotiations.
Turkey has frequently sent soldiers into northern Iraq to chase
Kurdish rebels belonging to the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK,
which fought a 15-year battle for autonomy from Turkey.
Gul said Turkey wanted to prevent Iraq's breakup and to contain a
possible refugee flow within Iraq's borders.
"Turkey's Iraq policy is ... Iraq's territorial integrity, that
Iraq's resources are shared by the whole population ... that a
refugee flow is contained within Iraq," Gul said.
"Turkey has no designs whatsoever on Iraq's territory. Turkey
will take measures in line with these aims," he said.
Turkey fears that Iraq could fragment during a war, leading Iraqi
Kurds to declare independence, which could encourage Turkish Kurdish
Turkey's parliament voted Thursday to allow the United States to
use the airspace, a measure that would allow strike aircraft on
carriers in the Mediterranean to fly more directly into Iraq.
The resolution passed by parliament would also allow Turkey to
move its own forces into northern Iraq.
|Turkish soldiers guard the
suburbs of Diyarkabir, southeastern Turkey, Friday, March 21,
2003 as Turkish Kurds celebrate the Newroz festival, marking
the first day of spring. Turkey has said it wants to bolster
its military presence in Iraqi Kurdistan to guard against a
refugee influx and fight any effort to establish a separatist
Kurdish state which could encourage Turkey's Kurdish
separatists. Kurds have vowed to fight the Turks if they
invade. (AP Photo / Anja
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