ANKARA, Turkey -- As U.S. military planes dropped emergency supplies into northern Iraq, President Turgut Ozal said last night that the international community should do more to assist the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing Saddam Hussein's suppression of the Kurds.
Four C-130 planes flew over northern Iraq dropping food, blankets and tents to refugees from the Iraqi civil war, carrying out relief efforts that were part of a "massive" response announced Friday by President Bush. More air drops were scheduled for today.
The Hercules transport planes flying from Turkey's Incirlik air base were escorted by U.S. fighters, and Defense Secretary Dick Cheney warned that any attempt by Iraq to interfere with the airdrop would be met with force.
"Our commander on the scene has the authority to use the force necessary to protect the units that are involved in the relief effort," he said on ABC's "This Week with David Brinkley."
Mr. Cheney also seemed to agree with Mr. Ozal on the need for a new initiative in the United Nations Security Council to provide a haven for Kurdish refugees on Iraq's northern borders.
Referring to a new Security Council resolution that calls on Iraq to stop oppression of the Kurds, Mr. Cheney suggested returning to the council "to try to create some kind of mechanism or process that would provide an area there where they'd be safe."
Secretary of State James A. Baker III, en route to Israel to discuss Mideast peace ideas, defended efforts to aid Kurdish and Shiite rebels as "significant," but also said: "We cannot police what goes on inside Iraq, and we cannot be the arbiters of whoshall govern Iraq."
But Mr. Ozal, greeting Mr. Baker at the presidential palace here for a dinner meeting, signaled dissatisfaction with international efforts so far.
Asked by reporters if he thought there should be more international action in behalf of the refugees, he replied, "I think so."
Mr. Baker leaves Ankara this morning for a helicopter tour of the border region and probably will meet with some of the 30,000 Kurds in refugee camps before flying to Israel.
A senior U.S. official said the Bush administration has received varying estimates on the number of refugees.
Mr. Baker said he hopes to "get a better feel and fix for the situation" in his tour today.
"Now maybe, as things move along, our intelligence on this will get better," Mr. Baker said.
Mr. Ozal told ABC that another million Kurdish refugees are headed toward the border.
"The whole [of] northern Iraq is on the move and looks like cities are being emptied . . . all of them," he said. "This is a kind of deportation -- I don't want to say genocide . . . and Iraqis are emptying those places [to] get rid of those people."
He also denied news reports that Turkish officials were turning back refugees at the border. "My border is open," he said.
Mr. Baker arrived here last night with a strong statement condemning Iraqi brutality, saying, "Once again, the world finds it necessary to respond to Saddam's savage and indecent use of force. Only this time, his victim is not a neighboring country."
Questioned earlier by reporters, Mr. Baker sounded defensive when asked, in a comparison to world inaction during the Holocaust, if there were any limits the United States was prepared to place on Mr. Hussein.
The United States has threatened to shoot down Iraqi fixed-wing aircraft and has also threatened serious consequences if Iraq uses chemical weapons against its own people.
"We're moving actively in the United Nations -- something you didn't see in the '30s. The international community is moving very actively, and the United States has been a very, very substantial part of that."
Kurdish spokesmen interviewed by ABC yesterday accused the United States of encouraging the Iraqi people to rebel against Mr. Hussein and then abandoning them to massacre at the hands of the Iraqi military.
In reply, Mr. Cheney said, "I think it's safe to say we did not give anybody any assurances that there would be U.S. military support for the Kurds inside Iraq.
"We stated repeatedly that it was not a military objective of the United States to go to Baghdad or to change the government in Iraq."
Frank Starr, chief of The Sun's Washington Bureau, contributed to this article.