Powell says he's certain Turkey won't sent troops to north Iraq

U.S. to link future aid to cooperation during war

April 02, 2003|By Howard Witt | Howard Witt,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

ANKARA, Turkey -- Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday that he was confident Turkey would agree not to send troops into northern Iraq, a move the Bush administration fears could undermine the war to topple Saddam Hussein.

Powell also said he would be carrying a warning to the Turkish leaders he will meet with today: The White House and Congress will judge future aid to the NATO ally based on Turkey's cooperation during the rest of the war.

Last month, Turkey's parliament spurned the Bush administration's request to use Turkish bases to open a northern front against Iraq, a decision that complicated the Pentagon's war plans. The parliament agreed only to grant U.S. military aircraft overflight rights.

Turkish officials also warned that they reserve the right to send troops into Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq to stop the movement of refugees or block any efforts by Kurds to break away from Baghdad and declare an independent state.

Nevertheless, President Bush is asking Congress to reserve $1 billion in economic aid for the moderate Muslim nation to shore up its struggling economy.

"There is still a level of disappointment in the U.S., in the Congress, over some of the actions of the past month or so and the inability to get the vote" to approve the use of Turkish bases, Powell told reporters en route to Ankara. "People in Congress are looking at this and wondering whether or not the $1 billion should be included. I will just point this out to them."

Powell said the Pentagon is no longer interested in basing large numbers of U.S. forces in Turkey, but he said he would be seeking assistance from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for movement of humanitarian supplies.

"I think if we see full cooperation in the days ahead and full support for humanitarian efforts, as well as support for our troops now in northern Iraq, then I think this would help" improve Turkey's relations with Washington, Powell said.

Some Turkish analysts have said that Washington fumbled its efforts to persuade Turkey to accept U.S. troops by taking the decision for granted and miscalculating the willingness of the new ruling Islamic party to buck widespread popular opinion against waging war on Iraq.

Powell seemed to acknowledge that criticism, noting that his goal in meeting with the Turkish leadership is "to make sure there are no further misunderstandings." On the crucial question of Turkish troop deployments into northern Iraq, Powell said, "I think that's pretty much under control."

Powell said that with thousands of airborne U.S. troops entering northern Iraq, Washington will be able to assure the Kurds and the Turks of stability and security in the region, preventing refugee migrations or power grabs. "Therefore, we see absolutely nothing that would require such an incursion" by Turkish troops, he said.

From Turkey, Powell will travel to Belgrade for brief meetings with Serbian officials, including the new prime minister of Serbia-Montenegro, Zoran Zivkovic, whose predecessor was assassinated last month.

He then travels to Brussels, Belgium, for talks with European and NATO foreign ministers on the administration's plans for post-Hussein Iraq.

"What we have to work out is exactly how the U.N. will be used to provide some level of endorsement for our actions in Iraq for some period of time, until we can switch administration over to civilian administrators on the way to a new government," Powell said. "How you put that in the form of new U.N. resolution is something that will take a great deal of discussion."

Howard Witt writes for the Chicago Tribune, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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