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Turkey won't send troops without Iraq OK
( 2003-11-05 11:28) (Agencies)

Turkey will not send peacekeeping troops into Iraq without an invitation from the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, Turkey's ambassador to the United States said Tuesday.

Ambassador Osman Faruk Logolu said the United States must put more pressure on the council to approve the Turkish troops a move he said the United States appears unwilling to make.

"Until we have a clear initiative from the Iraqi people, we will not insist on going into Iraq," Logolu said at a breakfast meeting with reporters. "Ours is an offer to help ... We want to make sure that if we go to Iraq we will be welcomed."

Turkey's parliament voted last month to allow a contingent of Turkish troops to join the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, Turkey's neighbor to the southeast. American officials had pressed Turkey, the only majority Muslim nation in NATO, to approve sending the troops.

The Americans sought as many as 10,000 Turkish troops to supplement the 132,000 American and 23,000 coalition forces in Iraq.

But progress toward getting Turkish troops into Iraq has stalled amid opposition from some members of the Iraqi Governing Council, particularly Iraqi Kurds. Turkey has fought a 15-year battle with independence-minded Kurdish militants and continues to station thousands of troops just inside Iraq's northern border.

Although the fighting inside Turkey officially ended in 1999, Turkey remains worried that the main insurgent group, known as the PKK, continues to have bases in northern Iraq, Logolu said. Turkey, he said, retains the right to attack the PKK inside northern Iraq if the U.S.-led coalition does not.

"The Turkish population wants to see action on the PKK in northern Iraq," Logolu said. "The patience of the Turkish public is growing thin. We would like to see some concrete movement against the PKK in northern Iraq."

Turkey plans to open a second official border crossing point into northern Iraq, Logolu said. Another sticking point in Turkey's relations with the new Iraq is that a Kurdish faction controlled by Massoud Barzani still collects and keeps border-crossing fees from the first checkpoint, Logolu said.

U.S. officials are working to standardize all border checkpoints in Iraq and make sure the money collected goes to the Iraqi Governing Council, not any one faction, Logolu said.

Turkey also is concerned that the United States is giving too much power to the Kurdish factions in the Iraqi Governing Council, Logolu said.

"The Kurdish representation is much in excess of its representation in the population," Logolu said. "What we are worried about is if you give the impression you will tolerate a system ... that will eventually lead to separation, you're already building in a module of instability into Iraq."

Turkish officials have said the Americans want any Turkish peacekeepers to be stationed outside Kurdish areas, perhaps in western Iraq near the border with Syria. Logolu said Turkish troops might be better able to gather information about anti-American elements in Iraq.

"What's different is the body language, the ability of the Turkish soldier to relate to the behavior, the gestures, the rhythm of daily life, particularly how to relate to the women," Logolu said.

The Turkish troops also could be targets for attack, the ambassador acknowledged. A week after the Turkish vote approving the possibility of sending troops, a car bomb exploded near the Turkish embassy in Baghdad.

"We probably would suffer fatalities" if Turkish peacekeepers went to Iraq, Logolu said. "But when you are doing something important, you have to take risks."

 
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