Turkey insisting on right to send troops into Iraq

Potential consequences trouble U.S. officials

Deadline For Hussein

March 19, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

ANKARA, Turkey - Despite deep American concern about the potential consequences, the Turkish government is insisting on its right to send troops into Iraq if it determines that it needs to, a senior American official said late last night.

The official said a delicate meeting here yesterday between Turkish government officials and Iraqi Kurdish leaders did not yield a pledge from Turkey that its forces would stay out of northern Iraq, which borders southeastern Turkey, in the event of war.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Americans continued to believe that "a unilateral action could cause significant problems." Iraqi Kurds, who strongly oppose such an action, have said that it could prompt violence between Turkish and Kurdish forces.

Nonetheless, the official said, "The Turks have reserved the right in principle to come in."

Among other concerns, the Turkish government fears the rise of an autonomous Kurdish state in northern Iraq, which could rekindle separatist demands among Kurds in southeastern Turkey. The government is also worried about a tide of refugees crossing from northern Iraq into Turkey and wants its military to be able to halt any flow.

Turkey's continued insistence on its right to send troops to Iraq reflected the strong passions being stirred in Turkey by the prospect of war.

The Turkish Parliament, which previously rejected a resolution to provide the United States with help for a military invasion, announced early this morning that it would bring a new resolution on the issue to Parliament today or tomorrow.

"There is not much time," said Justice Minister Cemil Cicek in making the announcement, which came after a late-night Cabinet meeting here.

He said the resolution, which was being completed, would probably cover the movement of American ground troops through Turkey and permission for American warplanes to use Turkish air space.

Cicek said the resolution would also authorize the deployment of Turkish troops outside the country - in northern Iraq, for instance.

Throughout the day, Turkish officials expressed confidence that a new resolution would succeed in Parliament. But American officials have been only cautiously optimistic, noting that there had been fervent widespread predictions that the last parliamentary resolution would pass March 1.

Government officials and political analysts here said the mood among Turkish politicians had changed since the Parliament narrowly defeated the previous resolution. One reason, they said, was the plunge in financial markets in Turkey on Monday, when it seemed that a conflict in Iraq was imminent and that Turkey would forfeit at least $6 billion in aid that the United States had tied to use of Turkish territory.

Political analysts also said that Turkey did not want to be left out of a war - and, more importantly, decisions about postwar Iraq - and that a military conflict seemed inevitable.

In an interview yesterday, Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdish Democratic Party, one of the two Kurdish political parties that dominate northern Iraq, warned of armed resistance against the Turks by Kurdish fighters known as Peshmerga: "Our position is very clear. Neither the Kurdish people nor the Peshmerga would stand still and be handcuffed."

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