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U.S., Turkey at odds over deployment of troops

Special to World Tribune.com
MIDDLE EAST NEWSLINE
Saturday, April 26, 2003

ANKARA Turkey and the United States are again said to be involved in a dispute over the deployment of Turkish troops in Iraq.

Western diplomatic sources said Turkey wants to send more than 3,000 troops to Iraq. Ankara wants the troops deployed in northern Iraq while coalition forces object.

The sources said the United States wants Turkish forces to be sent to Baghdad and the southern Iraqi city of Karbala. They said the United States objects to the deployment of Turkish troops in Mosul and Kirkuk.

At the same time, Britain wants Turkish troops to replace coalition forces in Basra. Both Britain and the United States envision the Turkish troops as being part of an international peacekeeping force.

On Thursday, the United States completed its withdrawal of military equipment and supplies deployed in Turkey for the war in Iraq. The semi-official Anatolia news agency reported that the last cargo of the U.S. material was placed on a ship in the southern port of Iskenderun on early Thursday. U.S. military personnel responsible for the supplies also left the port and were preparing to fly out of Turkey.

The United States is also said to have been concerned over Turkey's efforts to coordinate with Syria regarding the future of Iraq. The sources said U.S. pressure prevented a visit by Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul to Damascus scheduled for April 13. Gul has rescheduled the visit to Damascus for next Tuesday.

On Wednesday, President George Bush spoke to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan on the telephone in a discussion that focused on Iraq and a proposed $1 billion in U.S. aid to Ankara. Officials said Erdogan urged Bush to understand Turkey's concerns over a Kurdish state in northern Iraq.

Officials said Erdogan has been alarmed over reports that Kurdish fighters have seized tanks, armored vehicles and weapons from Iraqi military arsenals around Kirkuk and Mosul. They said Turkey fears that some of these weapons have made their way to the Kurdish Workers Party, known as the PKK, which fought Turkey from 1983 to 1998.

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