SILOPI, Turkey March 22 —
The Turkish General Staff on Saturday denied reports by a
military official and national newspapers that 1,000 commandos had
been sent into northern Iraq.
"Turkey has not entered northern Iraq," said a spokesman for the
Turkish General Staff, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.
"Such news is a lie."
Another military official, also speaking on condition of
anonymity, had said on Friday that soldiers, in armored personnel
carriers, rolled into northeastern Iraq from near the town of
Cukurca, where the borders of Turkey, Iraq and Iran converge. He
said the soldiers were reinforcing several thousand Turkish troops
already on the Iraqi side of the border and were not ordered to go
deeper into Iraq.
Similar reports were front-page news in Turkish newspapers
Saturday and were carried on Turkish television stations throughout
In response to the reported deployment, Germany threatened to
withdraw its crew members from NATO surveillance planes that are
protecting Turkey during the Iraq war if Turkey has, in fact, moved
troops into Iraq.
Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and Defense Minister Peter
Struck issued the threat after a meeting of Chancellor Gerhard
Schroeder's Security Cabinet.
In the northwestern Iraqi border town of Zakho, there were no
signs of Turkish forces and no sign that Iraqi Kurds who control the
area were mobilizing.
The border area, however, is mountainous and the several thousand
Turkish troops already in the region are mostly in mountain areas
and not near population centers.
Washington strongly opposes any Turkish moves into northern
"We don't see any need for any Turkish incursions into northern
Iraq," Secretary of State Colin Powell said.
Powell spoke after Turkey delayed opening its airspace to U.S.
warplanes for strikes against Iraq, insisting the United States
agree to its demands to move troops into northern Iraq.
Turkey later dropped the demand and allowed the overflights.
Scores of Turkish tanks, artillery and armored personnel carriers
were positioned near the border town of Silopi and thousands of
Turkish troops were also camping 4 miles away from the Iraqi
The entire border area has been declared a military zone and is
off limits to journalists.
Some 5,000 Turkish troops were on their way to the border area,
military officials said.
Turkey fears the U.S.-led war could lead Iraq to fragment, with
northern Kurds declaring independence and encouraging separatists
among Turkey's Kurdish rebels, who battled the army for 15
"Turkish soldiers will go in," Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told
reporters Friday. He said Turkey's objectives were "Iraq's
territorial integrity" and containing within Iraq any refugee flow
caused by the war.
"Turkey has no designs whatsoever on Iraq's territory," he
Turkey has maintained several thousand soldiers backed by a few
dozen tanks in northern Iraq to chase Turkish Kurdish guerrillas for
Turkey says Turkish Kurdish rebels have benefited from the power
vacuum in northern Iraq following the 1991 Gulf War to stage
hit-and-run attacks in Turkey from northern Iraq.
"This time, we will not allow such a (power) vacuum," Gul
|Turkey's Prime Minister Recep
Tayyip Erdogan, right, with his deputy Mehmet Ali Sahin, left,
and Environment Minister Kursad Tuzmen at the Parliament in
Ankara on Friday, March 21, 2003. Turkey on Friday delayed
opening its airspace to U.S. warplanes for strikes against
Iraq despite parliamentary approval for the overflights,
insisting the United States agree to its demands to move
troops into northern Iraq, officials said. (AP Photo/Burhan
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