ANKARA Ñ 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
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
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.