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Turkey's leader: Fate of northern Iraq causing impasse with U.S.

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Tuesday, March 11, 2003

ANKARA 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 buildup 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.

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