Powell seeks restraints on Turkish forces

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 2, 2003

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - The United States and Turkey agreed Wednesday on an ''early warning'' system to avert friction between Turkey and Iraqi Kurds.

The agreement, worked out by Secretary of State Colin Powell and a Turkish leader, was designed to reduce any likelihood of Turkey moving military forces into northern Iraq.

At a joint news conference, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul of Turkey said ''new doors will open for us'' in cooperating with the United States.

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Powell said Turkey also had agreed to facilitate delivery of humanitarian assistance to Iraqi civilians and fuel supplies to coalition forces. He said enhanced military cooperation, such as evacuating wounded troops through Turkey or allowing coalition planes in distress to land in Turkey, was under consideration.

Powell said he hoped the new joint arrangement would be concluded within a week and that Iraqi Kurds would cooperate.

''We have the situation under control,'' he said. ''There is no need for movement of troops across the border.''

Turkey, with a large Kurdish population, is worried that Iraqi Kurds might declare independence and embolden separatists in Turkey, who have fought for autonomy in the southeast for 15 years.

Powell said the early warning system would provide for immediate consultation between Turkish and U.S. officials in the event of tension. At the end of the 1990-91 Gulf War, there was a surge of Kurdish refugees from Iraq into Turkey.

Turkey's refusal to permit use of its territory for U.S forces to invade Iraq strained U.S. relations with Ankara and caused the Bush administration to shelve a proposed $6 billion aid package.

Powell said Wednesday outside the Turkish foreign ministry that the U.S. military ''worked around'' Turkey's refusal to permit use of its territory. More than 1,000 U.S. troops parachuted into northern Iraq last week, accompanied by tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles.

Gul said ''Turkey is within the coalition'' and that overflights of Turkish territory by coalition combat aircraft would continue.

''The visit of Secretary Powell has strengthened our relations and helped to dispel all issues with regard to relations between the two countries,'' he said.

Powell said U.S.-Turkey ties were strong and have endured for 50 years. ''Turkey is an important member of the coalition against Saddam Hussein,'' he said.

Powell met with Gul, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other Turkish officials over a six-hour period Wednesday.

About two dozen students protested Powell's visit outside the Foreign Ministry, chanting ''Murderer, murderer, get out of Turkey!'' About five minutes before Powell arrived for the round of meetings, police detained all of the protesters.