10 U.S. ships leave Turkey for Gulf after appeal by Bush fails

Friday, March 14, 2003

ANKARA Turkey and the United States have have agreed on rules of engatement in northern Iraq but have failed to agree on Washington's request to deploy 62,000 American troops in Turkey.

Ankara, despite a personal appeal by President George Bush, has also not agreed to a U.S. request for use of Turkey's air space. U.S. officials said that in response Washington has ordered that 10 naval ships leave the Turkish region and head for the Persian Gulf.

Turkish government sources said Ankara and Washington have agreed on the zones of operation by Turkish military forces as well as their mission.

Under the agreement, Turkey has pledged to keep its troops within 20 kilometers of the Iraqi border. Turkey now has more than 20,000 troops who operate within a 40 kilometer zone inside Iraq.

But The U.S.-Turkish accord includes a commitment by Ankara not to attack Kurdish or any other civilian targets in the area. The accord also calls on Turkey to provide help to refugees.

The sources said the United States has agreed that Turkey can use force for self-defense to protect the Turkmen community and prevent the occupation of oil regions in northern Iraq. Turkey is also allowed to use force to prevent the establishment of an independent Kurdish state.

The agreement was reached, the sources said, as part of an effort to prevent a confrontation between U.S. and Turkish troops in northern Iraq. The Turkish military has been concerned that Kurdish insurgents or separatists could attack Turkish troops from behind a U.S. military umbrella.

"Turkey is fearful of possible conflicts with Kurdish groups or even U.S. troops in the region," Turkish columnist Zeynep Gurcanli wrote in the Star daily. "That's why the Turkish Army will definitely act very carefully."

Turkey plans to deploy up to 80,000 troops in northern Iraq. The sources said 50,000 troops have amassed along the Iraqi-Turkish border, with about 20,000 already in positions in northern Iraq.

The sources said the agreement constitutes an understanding with much room for interpretation. They said Turkey and the United States have failed to agree on the composition of a Kurdish entity in northern Iraq. Turkey wants a U.S. guarantee that Washington will not allow the establishment of anything other than an Iraqi federation. Washington has refused to relay such a pledge.

Another snag is the U.S. refusal to guarantee Turkish participation in an international civilian administration that will rule Iraq after the elimination of the regime of President Saddam Hussein. The sources said Washington does not want to expand Turkish influence beyond that of northern Iraq.

For their part, Kurdish leaders have expressed opposition to Turkish troops in northern Iraq unless they are under U.S. command. The leaders have warned that Turkey's entry into northern Iraq will result in Iranian and Syrian intervention. Kurdish sources said their forces have been deployed along the Turkish border to fight any invading Turkish troops.

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