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March 24, 2003
 
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(AP Photo)
U.S., Turkey at Odds on Troops in N. Iraq
U.S., Turkey Fail to Reach Agreement on Ankara's Plans to Send Troops Into Iraq

The Associated Press


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ISTANBUL, Turkey March 24

A U.S. special envoy rushed back to Turkey but failed to reach agreement Monday on Turkey's plans to send troops into northern Iraq.

Fearing friendly fire incidents with U.S. forces and clashes with Iraqi Kurds, the United States opposes Turkish intervention. President Bush said Sunday his administration had made clear that it expected the Turks to keep out of northern Iraq.

U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who was accompanied by U.S. Ambassador Robert Pearson and American military officials in his meetings with Turkish leaders, said afterward that no agreement had been reached. He pledged to hold more talks Tuesday.

Opposition to a Turkish intervention increased Monday with Germany and Belgium announcing that a Turkish incursion could force NATO to review its mission to boost the country's defenses against a possible Iraqi attack. The countries said such a move would compromise the defensive basis of NATO's deployment of AWACS surveillance planes and other specialist units to Turkey.

The European Union also warned Turkey against entering northern Iraq. Such a move could hurt Ankara's candidacy to join the union.

Even so, Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed a possible Turkish intervention Monday with the country's military leader, Gen. Hilmi Ozkok.

"The Turkish armed forces have made certain plans and preparations in this matter. When the right time and place comes, the necessary decisions will be made and put into effect," Ozkok said after the meeting.

Turkey has had several thousands of troops in northern Iraq since the late 1990s, but wants to beef up its military presence there to prevent a massive refugee flow from Iraq. Up to 750,000 Iraqi Kurds fled to Turkey during the 1991 Gulf War.

Turkey also fears that the fall of Saddam Hussein could lead to the creation of an independent Kurdish state in Iraq. That, in turn, could boost the aspirations of Turkey's Kurdish rebels, who fought a 15-year war for autonomy in southeastern Turkey.

Iraqi Kurdish forces have warned of clashes if Turkey sends in troops.

Safeen Dizayee, an official of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which controls part of northern Iraq, said Monday that even if Turkey and the United States agreed on an increased Turkish military presence in northern Iraq, that deal would not be binding on the Iraqi Kurds.

The U.S.-Turkish talks come as relations between the NATO allies have been strained over Turkey's refusal to allow 62,000 U.S. combat troops to use Turkey as a staging ground to open a northern front against Iraq.

Despite overwhelming popular opposition to the war, Turkey has allowed the United States to use its airspace to bomb Iraq and fly troops into northern Iraq.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the two sides were discussing ways to prevent refugee flows and terrorism and ensure humanitarian aid so the Turks won't feel compelled to enter northern Iraq.

"We believe strongly the current circumstances do not warrant any intervention by Turkish forces, and we expect all parties involved to be responsive to our concerns," Boucher said.


photo credit and caption:
In front of a map of Cyprus, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a meeting with President Necdet Sezer in Ankara Monday, March 24, 2003. Despite warnings from the United States and other NATO allies, Erdogan said Sunday his government was seeking to send troops into northern Iraq to prevent instability at the Turkish-Iraqi border. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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