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[casi] News, 05-09/03/03 (4)

News, 05-09/03/03 (4)


*  Turkish Vote on Troops Shows Surprises of Democracy
*   Turkish military backs U.S. troops
*  Turkey Awaits U.N. Vote Before Troop Deal
*   US Offers Turkey Short-Term Loans on Iraq -Sources
*  Out with the US, in with the Turks - Part 1: Turkish parliament's
double-fisted knockout
*   Turkish military convoy heads to Iraq border
*  The poor and devout give Erdogan a springboard


*  Campbell revives roving press unit to 'spin the war'


by Philip P. Pan
Washington Post, 6th March

ANKARA, Turkey, March 5 -- For years, Ahmet Faruk Unsal listened to U.S. and
European critics lecture him about the shortcomings of Turkey's democracy.
He nodded as they complained about violations of Kurdish rights or limits on
freedom of speech. He acknowledged that the police tortured suspects and
agreed the military intervened too often in civilian affairs.

So when he and other members of the Turkish parliament defied the government
Saturday by rejecting a measure to let U.S. troops attack Iraq from Turkish
territory, Unsal said they were simply doing what their American friends
have always said they should do: democratically representing the will of the

"The West said all these things about the Turkish system, and we do have
problems," said the former Lockheed Martin engineer, leaning over a plate of
grilled meat in the parliament's smoke-filled dining hall. "But you know
what? We did something not even the British Parliament, the cradle of
democracy, was able to do. We voted with the public, against a war."

The Bush administration says it wants to establish democracy in postwar
Iraq, hoping that will help transform the Middle East by promoting
democratic values to other nations in the area. But the surprise vote
against U.S. troops here in the region's only Muslim democracy -- and
Turkey's long tug of war between authoritarian and democratic rule -- are
reminders of what a difficult task that could be, and how unpredictable
democracy can be for U.S. interests.

Ali Carkoglu, a political scientist at the Turkish Economic and Social
Studies Foundation, said the vote exposed some problems with Turkey's
democracy. The military failed to take a clear public position, he noted,
making it harder for people to make an informed decision, and Turkey's
leaders tried to push the U.S. deployment through parliament without really
arguing the case to the public.

But he and others said Turkey is more democratic than ever. Momentum is
building for further change because of requirements for European Union
membership, Turkey's main foreign policy goal. As a result, Carkoglu and
others said, Washington can no longer get its way with Turkey simply by
working with a few top leaders.

"What is preferable, to have totalitarian countries that agree with the
United States or democratic ones that disagree?" said Emin Sirin, a lawmaker
who sits on the foreign relations committee and voted against the U.S.
troops. "I prefer the second choice, and I would hope Americans would, too."

The ruling Justice and Development Party has said it may try again to win
approval for the U.S. deployment, which is critical to the Pentagon's plans
to open a northern front against Iraq. Prospects for passage appeared to
improve today as the influential chief of the Turkish military, Gen. Hilmi
Ozkok, broke the army's long silence and endorsed the U.S. request.

But even as the general spoke, people across Turkey continued to celebrate
Saturday's defeat, by three votes, of the government-endorsed plan. Although
polls show that more than 90 percent of the public opposes a war, many Turks
had expected parliament to ignore their wishes. When the opposite happened,
even the nation's disappointed leaders described it as a victory for
democratic values in Turkey.

"This definitely shows that we are a democracy," said Melike Senyurt, 49, a
housewife doing her grocery shopping. "We know this, but now the United
States knows it, too. . . . I am especially proud because our parliament
stood up to America."

One Turkish newspaper described the Turkish people with the headline "70
Million Human Shields." Others proudly noted a shift in Western editorial
cartoons. An image of Turkey as a belly dancer demanding cash from Uncle
Sam, which prompted deep anger here, was replaced by that of a lone
protester standing in the path of American tanks.

"The quality of Turkish democracy has been proven to the Western countries
that have been advising Turkey to play the role of a democratic example in
the Islamic world," wrote Nuray Mert, a popular columnist for the newspaper
Radikal. "The U.S. and Britain may be disturbed, though, that democracy did
not function in the direction they wanted."


by Ayla Jean Yackley
Reuters, 5th March

ANKARA: Turkey's powerful armed forces have backed a tentative government
move to submit a fresh motion to parliament allowing U.S. troops to open a
"northern front" against Iraq from Muslim Turkey.

Chief of the General Staff Hilmi Ozkok said on Wednesday that Turkey would
be better off in any war than out of it, and argued that opening an extra
front against Iraq from Turkey would mean a short war.

The rare public statement from the influential general could boost U.S.
hopes for a deal with its NATO ally after a pledge of billions of dollars in
aid failed to convince parliament last weekend to allow 62,000 U.S. soldiers
to deploy.

The government has signalled it may table a second motion after its first
was narrowly defeated in a stunning vote that upset U.S. military planning.
A northern front from Turkey could shorten any war and cut the number of
U.S. casualties.

"The Turkish armed forces' view is the same as the government's and is
reflected in the motion our government sent to parliament," Ozkok told
reporters. "The war will be short if a second front is opened from the

Ozkok said Turkey would suffer consequences of a war whether it was involved
or not and was better placed to minimise damage if it sided with the United
States, which is offering up to $30 billion (18.7 billion pounds) in grants
and loan guarantees.

Turkey has spent months negotiating with the United States over the war aid
package, which is designed to compensate Turkey for an expected drop in
tourism revenue and rises in the price of oil and cost of borrowing.

Ozkok's remarks cheered investors hoping parliament will pass a second
motion. The weekend vote had sparked sharp falls in markets, with fears
Turkey's weak economy could not withstand the shock of a war that would hurt
tourism and trade.

Stocks jumped nearly three percent from negative territory earlier in the
day, and the lira rallied to 1,596,000 against the dollar, recovering all of
its losses from this week's slide.

A senior official in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) said on
Wednesday he expected the motion would pass if parliament voted again on
allowing in U.S. troops.

Prime Minister Abdullah Gul, attending a Organisation of the Islamic
Conference meeting in Qatar, welcomed Ozkok's remarks.

Turkey's armed forces wield significant influence on policy, particularly
where national security is concerned.

A meeting last week of the National Security Council, where generals advise
elected officials, did not end in a strong statement of support for the
deployment, raising doubts the military backed the idea of U.S. troops on
Turkish soil.

Open backing from the military will strengthen the hand of AKP leader Tayyip
Erdogan as he battles rebellion in his party.

Erdogan faces a Sunday by-election that is expected to spell the end of a
political ban for inciting religious hatred and open the way for him to take
over the premiership from Gul.

Erdogan and the military rarely see eye-to-eye. Secularist generals suspect
him of harbouring Islamist policies.

The second motion before parliament is expected to insist on a major
deployment of Turkish troops to Kurdish-run northern Iraq, which Turkey sees
as an area of strategic interest.

Turkey is concerned the Kurds of northern Iraq will use a war to entrench
the autonomy from Iraqi control they have enjoyed since the end of the 1991
Gulf War.

Ozkok issued a veiled warning that Turkey would intervene to prevent the
rise of a new Kurdish state.

"I would remind them (Kurdish leaders) that we have the right to defend our
legitimate national interests and would request them to be measured and
cooperative," Ozkok said.

"We were beside them in their most difficult days... Those who forget the
past will be bad architects for the future."

New York-based Human Rights Watch said the prospect of a Turkish move into
northern Iraq was a serious worry, given the record of the military in
battling Kurdish rebels at home.

"If Turkish operations in northern Iraq bear any resemblance to those in
southeastern Turkey, we can expect to see a human rights disaster," said
Human Rights Watch's Elizabeth Andersen.

More than 30,000 people died during fighting in the 1980s and 1990s in
Turkey's southeast between security forces and Kurdish rebels waging a
campaign for an independent homeland.

Human rights activists have accused the Turkish military of violating
civilians' rights during the clashes, which have largely died off since the
1999 capture of the rebel commander.

by Suzan Fraser
Las Vegas Sun, 6th March

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - Turkey's top politician said the government would wait
for the U.N. Security Council to make a decision on Iraq before asking the
Turkish parliament to reconsider deployment of U.S. troops for a war.

The comments by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, reported Thursday by the Anatolia news
agency, signaled a new delay in resolving the question of whether the U.S.
troops will be able to use Turkey as a launching pad for an attack on Iraq.


But Erdogan, who is considered the behind-the-scenes head of government,
said in an interview late Wednesday that the government would wait to see
the United Nations' next step.

"It would be good to see the U.N. Security Council's decisions. We will
determine what steps to take after we have seen them," Erdogan told private
television TGRT, according to Anatolia.


But party officials warn that a new vote could take up to three weeks.
Erdogan is running in by-elections Sunday that would pave the way for him to
become prime minister. Most analysts say a vote is unlikely before the new
government is formed.

It is not clear how long Washington is willing to wait before it abandons
the option of using Turkey to invade Iraq.

U.S. Congressman Robert Wexler, a Florida Democrat and co-chairman of the
Caucus on U.S.-Turkish relations, held talks Thursday with Prime Minister
Abdullah Gul about the troop deployment.

Wexler said he expressed to Gul "the hope that Turkey would weight its
national interests so that the United States and Turkey can work together."

In a sign that Washington still hoped that Turkey would finally approve the
deployment, some 30 trucks carrying U.S. Humvees, fuel trucks, and other
support equipment left the southern Turkish port of Iskenderun early
Thursday. The material was reportedly headed for a waiting station outside
the nearby city of Mardin.

It was the first time U.S. military material left Turkish ports. The U.S.
military is likely making space in Iskenderun's port for more equipment to
be unloaded from U.S. warships that have been waiting for weeks off Turkey's

Turkey has already authorized the U.S. military to deploy some 3,000 U.S.
soldiers and equipment needed to renovate Turkish ports and bases to be used
in a possible Iraq war. The United States cannot unload any combat equipment
until Turkey's parliament approves the deployment of the troops.

Also Thursday, over 100 Turkish military trucks from a mechanized infantry
brigade were seen heading toward the Iraqi border, private NTV television
reported. Turkey, which already maintains a few thousand troops in northern
Iraq, has said it would send in troops to stop a possible influx of refugees
from Iraq and to prevent the possible establishment of an independent
Kurdish state if Iraq fragments during any war.

Erdogan said he hoped that the U.N. Security Council would issue a clear
decision. The council is deeply divided, with France and Russia saying they
will veto the U.S.-backed resolution. The Security Council could debate a
new resolution next week.

by Adam Entous
Reuters, 6th March

WASHINGTON: Turkey could get direct U.S. government loans rather than loan
guarantees, including $8.5 billion for six months and up to $24 billion
longer term if it reverses course and grants American troops access to its
bases for an invasion of Iraq, U.S. sources familiar with the package said
on Thursday.

Direct loans from the Bush administration would help ensure that Turkey does
not run into trouble rolling over its short-term debt on its own, said the
sources, who gave some new details of a package that has been hammered out
over months.

In a major setback to President Bush's war plans for Iraq, Turkey's
parliament refused in a close vote last weekend to approve the deployment of
62,000 American soldiers in the NATO-member, mainly Muslim country that
neighbors Iraq.

It is unclear whether the Bush administration has changed the package since
the parliamentary vote.

The Pentagon has drawn up alternative plans for a "northern front," but
administration officials still hold out hope for a new parliamentary vote as
soon as next week after Turkey's powerful military made a strong call on
Wednesday to allow U.S. troops on its territory.

Stepping up pressure on recession-hit Turkey to act, the Bush administration
has warned that parliament would forfeit the aid package if it balks at the

If the parliament reverses course and backs the U.S. deployment, the
administration would ask the Republican-led Congress to provide $6 billion
in direct aid, $4 billion of which would secure loans totaling as much as
$24 billion.

As a downpayment on congressional action, the United States would provide
Turkey with an $8.5 billion bridge loan from Treasury's Exchange
Stabilization Fund, contingent on the Turkish parliament approving a budget
endorsed by the International Monetary Fund.

Sources said the bridge loan would be repaid in a relatively short time,
possibly as little as six months, using the proceeds of the longer-term
loans once approved by Congress.

The longer-term loans could also come directly from the U.S. government,
though no final decisions have been taken, sources said.

The Bush administration had initially planned to provide Turkey with loan
guarantees -- essentially U.S. government backing for loans that Turkey
would secure from private banks. "But it's unclear whether Turkey can get
the loans from the markets," one source said.

Sources say the administration initially balked at Turkey's request for a
bridge loan drawing from the Exchange Stabilization Fund. Critics inside the
administration and on Capitol Hill asserted that the country was not
currently facing a major currency crisis.

But with U.S. naval ships waiting off Turkish shores and Pentagon war
planners anxious for a decision, sources said the administration

Turkey has spent months negotiating with the United States over the war aid
package, which is designed to compensate it for any fall in tourism revenue
and rises in the price of oil and cost of borrowing.

Turkish lawmakers are also concerned the Kurds of northern Iraq will use a
war to entrench the autonomy from Iraqi control they have enjoyed since the
end of the 1991 Gulf War.

But open backing for the U.S. deployment from the Turkish military will
strengthen the hand of ruling party leader Tayyip Erdogan as he battles
rebellion in the party which led to the failure of the first motion

Turkey's armed forces wield significant influence on policy, particularly
where national security is concerned.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said this week, "The particular package
that we've been talking to them about was predicated on assistance and
cooperation in any plan for the use of force against Iraq ... We'll continue
to talk to them as we move forward."

But other U.S. officials said Turkey could still receive some financial aid.

Tapping into the $38 billion Exchange Stabilization Fund, set up in 1934
primarily for emergency use to defend the dollar, is bound to spark
controversy on Capitol Hill.

Over objections from some Republicans, the fund was used in 1995 by former
President Bill Clinton to bail out Mexico. Bush used it himself to help
Uruguay last year.

by Robert M Cutler
Asia Times, 7th March

The Turkish Grand National Assembly, in failing to approve the economic
assistance package to be provided to Turkey by the US in return for American
troops using Turkish soil for an attack on Iraq, also failed to authorize
Turkey's army to enter northern Iraq. The Turkish constitution requires a
parliamentary vote to send the country's armed forces outside its own
borders. With this not being approved, the dynamics of the impending war
have changed somewhat.

At greatest issue in northern Iraq for the US, of course, are the oil fields
of Kirkuk; but they are not the whole story. It would be fair to say that
most everyone who actually lives in the region is at least as concerned
about the post-Saddam Hussein political order in Iraq, specifically whether
the country will be federal or unitary.

It was in the attempt to calm Kurdish fears of Turkish occupation, in
particular, that President George W Bush's special envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad -
a protege of deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz who cut his teeth on
constructing post-conflict regimes in Afghanistan - met with the assembled
Iraqi opposition in northern Iraq this past weekend. Khalilzad's mission was
part of the hesitation-waltz between Turkey and the US leading up to the
assembly vote on the American economic assistance package, which,
unexpectedly, failed to win Turkish parliamentary approval.

>From the American perspective, Khalizad's most important tasks were to
dissuade the opposition from forming a body that could be taken to represent
a provisional government and to get them to acquiesce in a Turkish military
incursion. On both counts he was less than successful.

Concerning the first of these, the opposition established a leadership
council that styles itself as the nucleus of a post-Saddam government,
rather than just an advisory council that might work with an American
viceroy. Indeed, inside Iraq the opposition is spinning this as suggesting
parallel civilian and military administrations. Concerning the second
matter, important despite the final statement's relatively soft language,
elements within the Iraqi opposition strongly object to any Turkish
intervention at all. In fact, Khalilzad's language that the Turkish military
role would be "fully coordinated" with the American presence, and that the
Turkish army would leave when the Americans did, contains enough holes to
drive a truck through.

Full coordination does not exclude autonomy: the military planning done
within the framework of the US-Turkish agreement put before the Turkish
assembly foresaw 80,000 Turkish soldiers in northern Iraq - more than twice
the number of Americans - as well as Turkish (or joint US-Turkish)
supervision of the subsequent disarmament of the Kurdish forces to be armed
by the Americans to assist in the first stages of the war.

If the US is now limited to leapfrogging airborne divisions into northern
Iraq from the Gulf, which press reports have long suggested to be the
American "Plan B", then American troops will be far less numerous than the
40,000 they planned for ground insertion via eastern Turkey. Moreover, with
the Ankara parliament's rejection of the terms of the US-Turkish agreement,
the American engineering enhancements projected for Turkish bases, which
were intended to permit the more rapid transit of US troops through Turkey
into Iraq, will not be completed in time if they are completed at all. This
constellation of events raises the interesting possibility that, should the
Turkish parliament approve a Turkish role in northern Iraq after the de
facto leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party, Recep Tayyip
Erdogan, is elected from the Siirt constituency this weekend and becomes
prime minister, then the ratio of Turkish to American troops on the ground
in northern Iraq will be far greater than two-to-one.

If the US arms the Kurds, as foreseen in the first stages of the invasion,
and if Turkey decides after Erdogan forms a government that he could present
the motion on military cooperation to parliament again, then the subsequent
Turkish introduction of troops into northern Iraq would only enhance the
probability of Turkish-Kurdish clashes in the north, where the US may not
have the troops effectively available to separate them or establish a

In conclusion, one should take note of a secret seldom whispered in the
English-language press, that even today there are exiled Iraqi parties that
are not sympathetic to the projected American intervention. The Supreme
Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a body representing Shi'ite Arabs in
southern Iraq and participating in the meetings with Khalilzad but which
objected to language "welcoming" American troops, is is one such party.
Islamic Call, another Shi'ite group but not present at the Khalilzad
meeting, is another. (Islamic Call is also called "Da'wa" in
English-language reports, after its Arabic name "al-Da'wa al Islamiyya".)
The Iraqi Communist Party, which was the largest Iraqi party before Saddam
achieved power, also opposes US intervention. Finally, even the Kurdistan
Democratic Party is split, with memories of previous US betrayals of the
Kurds in uprisings in 1975 and 1991 motivating some of its leaders to oppose
American intervention if a Turkish invasion is inseparable from it. It is to
be noted that these parties represent non-Sunni ethnic groups in the north
and south of the country. They may be counted on, especially the Kurds, to
insist strongly on a federal post-Saddam Iraq.

Washington, meanwhile, seems split between those for whom "nation-building"
has passed from political anathema to political practice (if not doctrine)
on the one hand, and on the other hand, those who would be happy merely to
replace the several dozen super-elite of the Iraqi leadership - many of whom
are linked to Saddam by kinship and clan ties - while leaving the unitary
Saddamite state apparatus more or less intact and carrying over the vast
majority of its officials into the post-Saddam era. Such a political design,
however, does not qualify as "regime change": it amounts to nothing less
than a coup d'etat.

Dr Robert M Cutler,, is Research Fellow,
Institute of European and Russian Studies, Carleton University, Canada.

by Abdurrahman Akin
Reuters, 8th March

SILOPI, Turkey: Hundreds of Turkish army vehicles are moving towards the
Iraqi border, amid increased military activity that the armed forces have
described as security precautions.

Witnesses said the convoy was larger than any recent troop movement and that
about 300 vehicles, including tanks, armoured personnel carriers, jeeps and
ambulances from Turkey's 20th Armoured Brigade were heading east from the
city of Sanliurfa.

The Turkish government is seeking a say in the future of northern Iraq,
where it fears the emergence of a Kurdish state after a war could rekindle a
Kurdish separatist rebellion on its own territory.

Iraqi Kurds themselves are worried about Turkish involvement in northern
Iraq. Senior Iraqi Kurdish politician Barham Salih said in Ankara he had
received an assurance from a foreign ministry official that there would be
no Turkish occupation.

The Turkish Interior minister said the civil defence network was preparing
for a possible U.S.-led war on Iraq -- training rescue and aid teams,
activating siren systems and buying stocks of gas masks and protective

Turkey is agonising over whether to let U.S. troops move through its
territory to open a northern front in a war against Iraq, a key element of
U.S. pre-war planning.

The military has backed letting U.S. forces through, saying it would mean a
shorter, less costly conflict and that Turkey would be better off involved
in any war than staying out of it.

Last weekend parliament narrowly rejected a U.S. request to station up to
62,000 troops in Turkey, but the government has hinted it may present a
fresh motion to the assembly next week.

"We will evaluate this in the days ahead and try and see together how Turkey
can emerge from this situation with the least loss for the people," Prime
Minister Abdullah Gul said on a visit to the southeastern town of Siirt.

Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the ruling party, looks set to win a by-election
in Siirt on Sunday that would allow him to become prime minister and ask
parliament to reverse its troop decision.

But with war possibly imminent, a group of U.S. congressmen visited Ankara
for talks with Turkish leaders that they said were dominated by the need for
a rapid decision.

"The biggest concern we expressed was timing, pure and simple," Republican
Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan told reporters after a meeting with

Witnesses said the military convoy reached the border town of Silopi on
Friday afternoon. Beyond Silopi is a closed military area and the convoy's
final destination was not clear.

In a statement on Thursday, the Turkish general staff played down the
significance of recent military movements, calling them "forward-looking
precautions related to security...No other meaning should be extracted."

Ships carrying equipment for the U.S. Fourth Infantry Division are waiting
off Turkey's Mediterranean coast, and at the southern port of Iskenderun a
cargo ship offloaded jeeps, medical supplies and military equipment on

Media reports say some of the U.S. equipment is being taken to a logistics
centre near the southeast town of Mardin. Ankara has already permitted the
United States to modernise several Turkish air bases and ports to prepare
for a possible conflict.

Turkish Interior Minister Abdulkadir Aksu said buildings in the southeast
had been identified for use as shelters in case of attack by Iraq. "Existing
siren systems to alert the people have been inspected and made ready for
use," he said.

There is overwhelming opposition in Turkey to a war in Iraq amid fears that
the turmoil could spread across the border and undermine Turkey's fragile
economic recovery.

Turkey says Washington is offering up to $30 billion in grants and loan
guarantees in exchange for help in any war, such as the use of bases. Ankara
wants compensation for any fall in tourism income and rises in the oil price
and cost of borrowing.

The visiting U.S. congressmen said they had tried to assure Turkish
officials that the aid would be available and not caught up in lengthy
congressional approval.

"It is very obvious to us that any agreement must be beneficial to both
parties at the same time," said Representative Robert Wexler, a Florida

by Leyla Boulton
Financial Times, 8th March

"The brave heart rises where he fell," proclaims a large banner greeting
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's unofficial leader, as he rides into town to
cheers and applause from the all-male crowd in the deeply conservative town
of Siirt.

Tomorrow, the south-eastern constituency, one of the poorest in Turkey, is
likely to elect Mr Erdogan in a parliamentary by-election. This will pave
the way for Turkey's most popular politician to become premier - four months
after his Justice and Development party (AKP) won an electoral landslide.

It was in Siirt in 1997 that the ex-Islamist, who has since embraced a
reformist pro-western agenda, recited a famous poem comparing minarets to
bayonets. This act was deemed seditious by Turkey's arch-secular judges and
caused him to be disqualified from office for life.

After the November general election, however, parliament abolished such
political bans as part of sweeping human rights reforms required for EU
membership. Few expect Mr Erdogan to lose a contest featuring only the
lacklustre Republican People's opposition party.

Not only is the charismatic former Istanbul mayor popular among the poor and
the devout in a pistachio-growing area with a per capita income half the
national average. Many see concrete benefits from having the prime minister
as their member of parliament.

"How could people not seize this opportunity?" asks Teyifik Carlik, 34, a
trout farmer waiting outside the ramshackle sports stadium where Mr Erdogan
was delivering his fourth speech of the day on the campaign trail in Siirt
last week.

Similar hopes were echoed in the small township of Kurtalan. "There are
thousands of unemployed around here. We want investment, a factory and clean
drinking water. There's nothing here," complains Mehmet, 22, an unemployed
high school graduate.

Atop his campaign bus, the candidate, accompanied by the health minister,
promises prospective constituents roads, water, and jobs: "If I am running
the country, I am obliged to deliver these things." He also expresses the
hope that "our ladies" - female voters listening from indoors in this part
of Turkey - will one day own washing machines, thanks to the AKP's drive to
transform the country.

Bread-and-butter pragmatism helps to explain why Mr Erdogan has put so much
effort into advancing Turkey's EU candidacy, the priority for most Turks.

This effort has included trying to push Rauf Denktash, the Turkish Cypriot
leader, and the crusty Ankara establishment into making the concessions
needed to reunify the divided island of Cyprus. A settlement enabling a
united island to join the EU next year is not only supported by most Turkish
Cypriots but would greatly boost Turkey's own membership prospects.

"Unfortunately the Cyprus problem continues," says Mr Erdogan. "It has been
going on for 40 years. We say 'solve it'. They say 'There is no problem'.
[The Turkish Cypriot north of the island] can't even bring over a Turkish
football team [because of international sanctions]. That means there is a

Speaking before parliament blocked a government resolution allowing the
deployment of US troops for an attack on Iraq, Mr Erdogan agrees: "Not a
single person can say 'yes' to war." However, "If there is a fire raging
next door, you have to take precautions".

Turkish opposition to US war plans in Iraq is heightened in Siirt by
proximity to the Iraqi border and the scars of a 16-year Kurdish uprising in
the south-east. "American soldiers should not come here," says Abdurrahman,
an unemployed father of 11 children. "We don't want our children to die. We
don't have gas masks or anything if there is an attack."

By supporting US war plans, the AKP was trying to demonstrate that it had
eschewed its Islamist roots. Mr Erdogan's more recent defeat over Cyprus,
however, when the president, generals, and opposition this week joined Mr
Denktash in rejecting a United Nations peace plan, serves to demonstrate
that Turkey still has some way to go to become a full democracy.

Mr Erdogan's move into the prime minister's office should at least end a
damaging situation where he has exercised power without responsibility. A
case in point was the way he pushed the government into softening an
economic stabilisation programme agreed with the International Monetary
Fund, prompting a costly rise in interest rates. Armed with the hard facts
of Siirt, however, Mr Erdogan says: "The government is applying the
programme in most respects but. we cannot ignore the realities of Turkey."


by Paul Waugh, Deputy Political Editor
The Independent, 8th March

A dedicated "war unit" is being set up by Downing Street to organise press
and PR coverage during the forthcoming conflict in Iraq. The unit will be
staffed by senior press officers from across Whitehall, many of whom have
already volunteered for the project.

It will be modelled on the Coalition Information Centre (CIC) devised for
the Afghan-istan conflict by Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's director of
communications and strategy. The CIC was based in Islamabad and provided
journalists from around the world and locally in the region with the US-UK
position during the campaign against the Taliban.

The centre was criticised by some as a pure "propaganda machine" and its
reputation was questioned after some members were tied to the notorious
"dodgy dossier" on Iraq published by Downing Street last month. Tam Dalyell,
a Labour backbencher, said: "It's quite wrong to have a spin unit. The dodgy
dossier was the work of what Nigel Lawson would call teenage scribblers. It
proves, once again, that Tony Blair is a disgrace to the Labour Party's

The new unit is expected to have a roving role, but it is likely it will
initially be based in London, Washington and Kuwait. As the conflict
changes, it could move into southern Iraq or Iraqi Kurdistan.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman would not go into detail, saying
only: "We are making suitable contingency plans."

Mr Campbell suggested the CIC be created in Afghanistan to clarify and
co-ordinate the messages coming out of Washington and London.

Staffed by three British government press officers, four Americans and one
Dutch representative, it was seen as a huge success by Downing Street,
injecting a professionalism that local press operations lacked. Crucially,
it had the latest technology to organise press conferences, give journalists
background briefings and combat Taliban claims.

Mr Campbell is in daily contact with his counterparts in the White House
communications team, and a joint strategy for "spinning the war", as well as
winning it, is seen as a main priority. Conference calls discuss the details
of when and where the unit should operate, what its remit will be and to
whom it should report before briefings.

Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, is a central figure in the
initiative. He is helping set up the US's planned office of global
communications to sell a more positive image of the country abroad.

Winning the propaganda war will be essential for Mr Blair and President
George Bush, and the Americans have decided to allow a new strategy of
"embedding" journalists with specific military units to follow their

But as well as getting television pictures of troops in action, Washington
and London are keen to co-ordinate their approach. A key job of the unit
will be to get the coalition's message across to the people of the Middle

One of the CIC's triumphs during the war in Afghanistan was an interview
with Mr Blair on al-Jazeera TV, the station chosen by Osama bin Laden for
many of his messages. The CIC in Islamabad helped get across the daily
tactics, statistics and spin of the allies, particularly to Islamic media

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