ANKARA Ñ The new of Turkey says his country's refusal to accept the deployment of U.S. troops stems from a disagreement on the future of northern Iraq.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, head of the ruling Justice and Development Party
and slated to become prime minister on Wednesday, said Ankara must first
form a new government, wait for the Security Council and then complete
negotiations for U.S. economic and military aid prior to a parliamentary
vote. Erdogan said he could not predict when a parliamentary vote would be
scheduled, Middle East Newsline reported.
"On the issue of the motion, there was no need to act with such haste,"
Erdogan said. "The right atmosphere, environment needs to be created. There
are also steps that the United States has to take. What role will Turkey
play in northern Iraq? We have to clear this up."
Turkey wants U.S. approval for military operations in
northern Iraq before parliament reconsiders the Bush administration's
request for the deployment of 62,000 U.S. troops.
Turkish leaders said the government does not intend to press parliament
to convene immediately for another vote for the deployment of the U.S.
military. They said Ankara wants to first resolve a range of economic and
military issues with the United States as well as wait for a resolution by
the United Nations Security Council.
Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis said Ankara has focused on
protecting its interests in northern Iraq. He said this would include the
prevention of Iraqi refugees from entering Turkey, preventing a Kurdish
state and ensuring the safety of the ethnic Turkish minority in Iraq.
"Our soldiers will try to keep refugees within Iraq and reasonable
kilometers away from the border," Yakis said. "So,
existence of Turkish soldiers will be a deterrent factor."
Turkish analysts expect any Erdogan government to resubmit its request
for U.S. troop deployment to parliament later this week.
For its part, the United States has continued to press Ankara to
resubmit the issue of American troops to parliament. Officials said U.S.
ambassador in Ankara, Robert Pearson, wants Turkey to decide by March 17.
"We continue to hope that we would be able to stage the northern option
through Turkey," U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on
Monday. "At this moment, I think we have to operate under the possibility
that that may not happen."
Turkey has allowed the United States to unload ships with military
equipment for transfer to Turkish bases near the Iraqi border. Turkish
military sources said about 6,000 U.S. soldiers and nearly 100 military
trucks have arrived in Turkish military bases over the last few days.
Turkey's opposition has called for an investigation into the U.S.
military buildup. Parliamentary speaker Bulent Arinc has suggested that the
might have violated a Turkish-U.S. agreement for the modernization of
Turkish air bases and ports.
On Tuesday, the Turkish media reported that Ankara and Washington
had signed a secret agreement on Feb. 8 for the entry of U.S. troops and
military equipment through Turkey. The television said the accord would
allow the United States to deploy at 10 military bases to prepare for
40,000 infantry forces.
The bases cited were Birecik, Dicle, Gaziantep, Kiziltepe, Mardin,
Nusaybin, Oguzeli, Oyali, Sanliurfa and Viransehir. Under the accord, the
U.S. troops would leave Turkey at the end of the Iraqi war.