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[casi] News, 09-14/03/03 (4)

News, 09-14/03/03 (4)


*  Turkmen fears of Iraqi conflict
*  Birds are absent from the hills of Qushtapa
*   Iraq rigs its oilfields to explode
*  Bomb Goes Off Near Politician's [Kosrat Rasool Ali, a top official in the
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan] Home
*  Kurds are about to be betrayed - again
*  Jalal Talabani speaks to NBC News in northern Iraq


*  Turkey's Erdogan to Wait on Troop Move
*  Turkish port abuzz with U.S. activity
*   Erdogan to become Turkish premier
*  Turkish MPs in furious debate over US military presence
*  Ocalan trial unfair, court says
*  Police shoot at Turkish demo
*  U.S. ready to throw in towel on Turkey


by Jim Muir
BBC, 12th March

The Kurds of northern Iraq are deeply apprehensive about Turkey's expressed
intention to send its troops across the border into the area of northern
Iraq the Kurds control.

The Turks have made it clear their aim is not to fight Saddam Hussein's
army, but to pursue Turkey's own interests.

One of the reasons given by Ankara is the need to protect Iraq's Turkmen
minority, thought to number around 2.5 million in all of Iraq.

But many of the Turkmen themselves seem to have little desire to see the
Turks intervene.

Khalis Yunis is a Turkmen who runs an antique shop in Arbil.

He has a keen eye for relics from the Ottoman period, when the Turks ruled
this whole area until just after World War I.

But even he has no desire to see the Turks come back again.

"We don't want any outside state to interfere in our affairs," he says.

"They'll spoil things for us. We're sitting here quite peacefully and
safely, everything's OK.

"Even if the Turks came, they wouldn't be able to protect us against looting
and theft, which is our main worry."

A number of Turkmen families live in almost mediaeval conditions up in the
ancient citadel which towers over Arbil, among them Qani'a Qader Mohammad,
her husband Abdullah and their daughter.

Here too, there is little enthusiasm for Turkish intervention.

"We don't want Turkish troops to come," Qani'a says.

"Why should we? Why do they want to come - to destroy our homeland and
country, to cheat us and beat us?"

The Turkmen have a lot to lose these days.

They have their own schools, teaching in their own language. They also have
television and radio stations, newspapers and political parties.

All this would not have been possible before 1991, when the Kurdish uprising
took the area out of the Baghdad government's control.

So says Jawdat Najjar, a Turkmen who is minister for his community's affairs
in the Kurdish-dominated regional government which runs this part of
northern Iraq.

"Under the Baghdad government, the Turkmen used to be deprived of all the
privileges of an Iraqi citizen," he says.

"But today, in Iraqi Kurdistan, the Turkmen enjoy all the same rights as
Kurdish and other citizens.

"So there is no justification at all for the Turkish army to intervene here
on the pretext of saving the Turkmen," he adds.

There is only one Turkmen body actively arguing for Turkish intervention,
called the Turkmen Front.

It has its own militia, believed to number around 500 fighters.

Critics say it is both financed by Turkey ($300,000 per month is quoted
widely as being the sum involved) and takes its orders from Ankara.

Its leader, Sanan Ahmet Aga, insists the Front is independent.

He recites a list of attacks on its offices by armed Kurds, saying this
proves a Turkish "presence" is needed.

"If there are violations against us now, when there is relative security,
what will it be like when there's an attack on Iraq, and everything's turned
upside down?" he asks.

"If there's war, a Turkish presence will become not just necessary, but

That is certainly not the view taken by Turkmen merchants at the Qayseria
bazaar in Arbil, where many of the shops are run by Turkmen.

Business in the bazaar has already been affected by rumours of war, and
people do not want more trouble.

"We don't want foreigners to intervene in our country," says Mohammad Wali,
a Turkmen goldsmith.

"Whether we're Kurds, Arabs or Turkmen, we live together. We don't want
anyone to come here, we'll solve our problems by ourselves."

Although it is impossible to carry out a reliable opinion poll, the strong
impression is that there really are not many ordinary Turkmen in northern
Iraq who want to see the Turkish army march in to protect them.

But like all the other Iraqis who fear they are about to be caught up in the
winds of war, they may have no choice in the matter.

Ankara is insisting that its troops must enter northern Iraq as a condition
for allowing US troops to pass through Turkey to open a northern front
against Saddam Hussein's forces.

There is no suggestion that the Turks would be going to fight the Iraqi
leader's army.

Turkish leaders have made it clear their main aim is to ensure the Iraqi
Kurds - who have been running their own affairs in Iraqi Kurdistan under
western air protection since 1991 - are unable to take any steps towards

The Kurds in turn believe Turkey's objective is to rob them of the freedom
they have enjoyed for the past 12 years, and have hinted strongly that their
peshmerga guerrillas will fight to defend it.

The Kurds insist they are not bidding for independence, but only for
regional autonomy within a federated, democratic Iraq - a goal espoused by
the entire Iraqi opposition, including Sunni and Shia Arabs.

by Gareth Smyth in Qushtapa, northern Iraq
Financial Times, 11th March

South of Arbil on the plain that stretches to Baghdad, and a few kilometres
from the front line between Kurdish guerrillas and Iraqi soldiers, is a
scattering of dusty settlements called Qushtapa.

Qushtapa is Kurdish for hill of the bird, which is a pleasant enough name.
But Qushtapa is a far from happy place, even if the land around it is

The last time I came here was the morning of 19 May 1992, as queues formed
to vote in parliamentary elections organised by the Kurdish groups who had
taken over northern Iraq after Saddam Hussein withdrew his administration
the previous November.

The queue was almost entirely women. First in line, after arriving an hour
before the polls were due to open, was Sherve Abdullah, and she told me how
in 1983 her husband and seven sons, aged 14 to 25, had been taken away at
dawn by Iraqi soldiers.

They and 8,000 other men from Qushtapa have not been seen since.

That was one many acts of cruelty against those living in Qushtapa. Many of
the inhabitants came here in 1978 after forced relocation from Barzan, high
in the mountains to the north, after Baghdad crushed a Kurdish revolt led by
Mullah Mustapha Barzani, the legendary guerilla leader.

The 8,000 men rounded up in 1983 wore the red turban of the Barzanis, and
their disappearance was punishment for the continued defiance of Masoud
Barzani, son of Mullah Mustapha and leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party

The Barzani women are no longer in Qushtapa. They have gone back to a
village rebuilt in Barzan.

The people I found in Qushtapa on Monday were also displaced, but from the
villages around Kirkuk, the city around 80 kilometres to the south-east.

The Iraqi government began ejecting Kurds from the Kirkuk region in the
1970s, partly because they wanted any census to show an Arab majority in the
province, which has both oil and fertile land, and so keep it out of the
autonomous zone the government might be forced to agree with the Kurds.

"My house was demolished three times as I moved from place to place," said
Abu Bakr Saleh, a man of 76 in the black and white chequered turban of the
Sherhazemi clan. "We were brought here in cars by Saddam in 1977. I was a
farmer, now Arabs work my lands. But, some people remained, and in 1988
Saddam took 2,000 of them to southern Iraq and buried them alive."

"I had a good life before, I had cattle, said Anwar Qadr Hamid, 65. Since
then I have worked as a labourer. If there is work, I do it."

Qushtapa is visibly poor. The local sandwich shop had six or seven pieces of
falafel on offer, and boiled a couple of eggs on request. Along the main
road to Kirkuk, shacks sold Turkish chocolate bars and young men offered
petrol from plastic containers.

At the final Kurdish checkpoint, 2km from the Iraqi front line, Diari Abu
Baqr, a KDP commander said traffic to and from Kirkuk had declined over the
past week.

"An Iraqi armoured car comes to this position at night," he said, pointing
to an elevation 500 metres away. "They shoot at people they think are
smuggling petrol [over half the price in government-controlled areas as in
the Kurdish zone]."

Iraqi soldiers came further along this road "to Qushtapa and beyond" in 1996
as part of an agreement with Masoud Barzani. The KDP leader turned to
Baghdad for help during clashes with the rival Kurdish party, the Patriotic
Union of Kurdistan, which was at that time receiving heavy weapons from
Iran, and threatening to crush Barzanis KDP.

That Masoud Barzani should conclude such a deal, after everything Saddam had
done to the Barzanis in Qushtapa and elsewhere, illustrates how hard Iraqi
politics can be.

When Iraq forces arrived in Qushtapa in 1996, they overran a camp
established by the Iraqi National Congress, the Iraqi opposition group led
by Ahmed Chalabi, and executed nearly 100 INC members, mainly Arabs. The KDP
was, nominally at least, a supporter of the INC.

When pressed, a crowd that gathered around me in Qushtapa on Monday said
they remembered the INC, but when a KDP official appeared they merely said
the INC "left" in 1996.

None of them was killed, said the official.

At the front line, Diari Abu Baqr, the commander, said he had "no
information" about what happened in 1996 and stressed that as a soldier he
couldn't answer questions about politics.

So I asked him about the military situation. Was he preparing to defend the
Kurdish zone or to attack Iraqi forces?

"We are preparing," he replied, "for whatever we are ordered to do."

by Sebastian Alison
Reuters, 11th March

QUSHTAPA, Iraq: Iraq has mined its northern oilfields of Kirkuk, dug a huge
oil-filled trench around the city and sealed off Kurdish districts,
travellers arriving in the Kurdish free zone from Kirkuk say.

Their reports could not be independently confirmed, but a steady flow of
travellers arriving at the border checkpoint of Qushtapa in the Kurdish area
on Tuesday all told substantially the same story, as did the checkpoint's
guards, who get regular updates from travellers.

"My uncle is a worker in the oilfields and he says they have mined all the
oilfields around Kirkuk," said a taxi driver who has been plying the route
between Kirkuk and Arbil, the largest city in the Kurdish free zone, for
several years.

Kirkuk, historically Kurdish but from which many Kurds have been expelled in
recent years, accounts for around 800,000 barrels per day of Baghdad's total
exports under the U.N.- sponsored oil-for-food deal of some 1.7 million
barrels per day.

President Saddam Hussein has said Iraq will not blow up oilfields if it is
attacked by U.S. led forces. Iraqi troops set Kuwaiti oilfields ablaze when
they retreated after the 1991 Gulf War.

Like all the people Reuters spoke to at Qushtapa on Tuesday, the driver, who
lives in Kirkuk and returns there every evening, spoke on condition of
anonymity. Others also said they believed the oilfields had been mined.

The driver said he had not yet faced any problems crossing the front line
between Iraq and the Kurdish area, which has been effectively independent,
protected by a U.S.- and British- patrolled no-fly zone, since the Gulf War.

Another Kirkuk resident, who runs a small transport business and crosses the
border every day, said that a series of trenches about 50 metres (160 ft)
long, 20 metres wide and four or five metres deep had been dug about 15 days
ago all around Kirkuk.

"They are full of black oil," he said. He said he could not confirm rumours
of oilfields being mined.

He also said he believed that a major bridge on the road between Kirkuk and
Mosul, the other main city in government-held northern Iraq, had been mined.
A guard at the checkpoint said a barge had been moored nearby for use if the
bridge was blown up.

The driver who said his uncle worked at the oilfields added that Iraqi
police, ruling Baath party officials and other security agents started
sealing off Kurdish areas of Kirkuk on Monday night, searching for guns and
weapons, and preventing residents from leaving or entering.

This was repeated by several others crossing the border.

He named the districts of Rahim-Awa, Iskan, Azadi, Tapa and Imam-Khassem as
among those sealed off. Asked how he, a Kurd living in Kirkuk, had been able
to cross on Tuesday, he replied that his own district had not yet been

One traveller said some Iraqi forces in Kirkuk were wearing U.S. military
uniforms, "because when the war starts they plan to kill people and will
pretend that American soldiers have killed the people of Kirkuk."

by Borzou Daragahi
Las Vegas Sun, 13th March

SULAYMANIYAH, Iraq (AP) - A suspected suicide bomber blew himself up near
the home of a prominent Kurdish politician in northern Iraq on Thursday
night, officials said.

No other casualties were reported.

Security officials at the scene said they believed the man was a member of
the Islamic extremist group Ansar al-Islam, which the United States has
accused of harboring fugitives from Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network.

But the city's security chief, Sarkawt Kuba, said the suspected bomber
belonged to another group, which he declined to identify.

The bombing took place on a street behind the home of Kosrat Rasool Ali, a
top official in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which rules the eastern
half of the Kurdish autonomous area in northern Iraq.

The explosion broke windows in nearby apartment buildings.

A neighborhood resident said he was watching television in his home when he
heard the explosion and ran downstairs.

"I saw a man whose body was broken into two pieces," said Abdul Qader
Mohammed, who added that he saw a handgun near the body. "He was wearing a
scarf around his face and only his eyes were showing."

The secular government and Islamic militants in northern Iraq have for
months fought a low intensity war of suicide bombings, assassinations and
exchanges of mortar fire.

by Nicholas D. Kristof
International Herald Tribune, 15th March

BATMAN, Turkey: A middle-aged Kurd took me on a lonely hillside near here to
point out the isolated police station in whose basement he had been beaten,
subjected to electric shocks and sexually humiliated. We stood half a mile
away as he recounted his tale, and then the police spotted us - and a tank
rushed toward us.

I fled. But the Kurds in Turkey cannot flee, and many here worry that the
war in Iraq will set off more of the savagery that marked the 1980s and
1990s in "Turkish Kurdistan" - a phrase that, if I were Turkish, might lead
to my arrest. The world has turned its back on the Kurds more times than I
can count, and there are signs that America is planning to betray them

The United States was so desperate to bribe Turkey into its coalition that
it was willing to allow tens of thousands of Turkish troops into Iraq's
Kurdish areas. And Washington still seems ready to acquiesce in this.

The Turks, having broken the back of Kurdish resistance within their
borders, plan to expand their efforts and "disarm" Iraq's Kurds to block
their control of oil fields. How can America allow this? Aside from the
sheer immorality of presiding over what is in effect a Turkish invasion of
peaceful Iraqi Kurdistan, such an incursion risks warfare between Kurds and
Turks that could spill into Turkey as well.

"The Turkish government has been far worse to the Kurds than Saddam has,"
one well educated Kurd said bitterly. His comment stunned me, for Turkey
never used poison gas or conducted mass executions as Saddam did, but one
Kurd after another said the same thing. They described past Turkish military
techniques like raping wives in front of husbands, or assembling villagers
to watch men being tied and dragged to their death behind tanks, and they
noted that Turkey had been less tolerant of Kurdish language and culture
than Saddam.

President George W. Bush is motivated to invade Iraq partly, I believe, by a
deeply felt horror of Saddam's repression. But if American claims to be
acting on behalf of the people of Iraq are to have credibility and moral
legitimacy, Washington must try to stop Kurds from being slaughtered not
only by its enemies in Baghdad, but also by itsfriends in Ankara. And
America should certainly not acquiesce in such steps as a Turkish invasion
of northern Iraq, which could trigger a new spiral of clashes and repression
in Turkey.

How could a warm and friendly country like Turkey, which has made genuine
progress on human rights and deserves a place in the European Union, be so
harsh to its Kurds? Turkey's horror of a flourishing Kurdistan derives from
its "Sèvres syndrome," named for the French city where Western powers tried
to dismember Turkey after World War I. Ever since then, Turkey has seen
accommodation as a slippery slope toward national disintegration. There had
been progress toward reconciliation in recent years, but now the prospect of
war in Iraq has revived old suspicions and hatreds.

While Bush has been eager to take note of Iraqi atrocities against the
Kurds, the West has never been so outraged by similar Turkish atrocities.
More than 30,000 people died during the years of fighting between the
Turkish government and the guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party; both
sides were brutal, murdering civilians and engaging in torture and
terrorism. Turkey also forced at least 500,000 Kurds to leave their villages
at gunpoint. Excellent reports on Turkey by Human Rights Watch say that some
refugees who have tried to return to their homes recently have been shot by
government-armed thugs.

Southeast Turkey still feels like a police state. I traveled to one remote
town to interview a Kurdish man who had been beaten by the police in front
of neighbors, doused with gasoline and then set on fire - he survived. His
family was so terrified to see a foreign reporter and risk another police
nightmare that they sent me packing.

Only one Kurdish man was not afraid to be named: Abdurrahim Guler, 37, who
has endured repeated bouts of torture and death threats. In one brutal
session, he says, the commander called out, "Bring in the stick," used to
rape men. "You can use your stick," Guler says he shouted back. "I still
won't talk even if you use a minaret!"

Now something even grimmer is bearing down on the brave Kurds: Turkish
tanks, like the one that sent me fleeing, but waves of them. I feel sick at
the thought that America is about to betray the Kurds, again.

NBC NEWS, 15th March

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq, March 14 ‹ As the U.S. push to launch military action
against Saddam Hussein reaches critical mass, key Iraqi opposition leader
Jalal Talabani, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, sat down with
NBC's Fred Francis. The Kurds of northern Iraq, staunch allies of the United
States, are ready to join the battle, Talabani says.

FRED FRANCIS: The Turkish government has refused to allow in American
forces. This creates a tremendous amount of problems for an offensive
against Saddam Hussein, but it also presents problems for you.

Jalal Talabani: I don't agree with you. The northern front is not so
necessary. It is not so important as the media exaggerates it. Look back at
the [1991 Gulf War] that liberated Kuwait. There was no northern front. The
Americans can send special forces and some paratroopers to Iraqi Kurdistan.
This a friendly land for them. They can cooperate with Kurdish peshmerga
fighters to achieve their goals of liberating Iraq and replacing the
dictatorship with a democratic government.
Fred Francis: Your peshmerga troops will help American forces in this

Jalal Talabani: We are prepared. We have put our peshmerga on full alert.
The National Assembly of Iraqi Kurdistan unanimously passed a resolution
saying that the Kurds are a partner of the United States in fighting against
tyranny, terrorism and for a free and democratic Iraq. It depends now on the
United States cooperates with the Kurds, with the Kurdish peshmerga, with
the Kurdish people and with Iraqi Kurdistan.

Fred Francis: I have seen over the last few weeks your men preparing
airfields. Why?

Jalal Talabani: For many reasons. First of all, we are expecting some Iraqi
pilots to defect and come to our area. Second, we will need humanitarian aid
from the United States. The American government decided to send for us
medicines and equipment [protecting against] biological and chemical
weapons. But there is no way for it to reach us now. Turkey didn't permit
the delivery through its border. We have asked Iran, but if Iran says no we
will need to bring it in by plane.

Fred Francis: What about the military reason?

Jalal Talabani: If America wants to use the airfields, they can do it. I
think this is very clear.

Fred Francis: The radical Islamist group Ansar al-Islam operates very near
here. What are you going to do about their presence?

Jalal Talabani: We are going to fight them. We doubled the number of our
forces around them, but we are awaiting developments in Iraq. Ansar al-Islam
is a terrorist organization, very dangerous. They are using all means at
their disposal, and they are encouraged by the Iraqi regime and by external
terror forces. They have many Arabs with them, including men from
Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Syria, Jordan and Palestine. They are
directed by al-Qaida.

Fred Francis: As a Kurdish leader, how are you going to deal with
sensitivities surrounding the city of Kirkuk?

Jalal Talabani: Kirkuk is a sensitive issue. Although I am from Kirkuk, from
a family that has inhabited Kirkuk for hundreds of years, I believe that
Kirkuk is located in Iraqi Kurdistan. But Kirkuk is a city inhabited by
Kurds, Turkomans, Arabs and Assyrians. And many people, especially in
Turkey, have exaggerated the number of Turkomans. They have painted a false
picture for the Turkish public.

We need time to clarify everything. When there will be free Iraq, and there
will be census, everyone will know the number of his nationality.

Fred Francis: That is a great diplomatic and political answer, but Kurds
displaced by Saddam's repression of Kirkuk will want to go to their homes
right away once the city is liberated. Are you going to stop them?

Jalal Talabani: Those Kurds and Turkomans who were deported from Kirkuk
forcibly, they have the right to go back home. And they must go back and
they will go back home. But they will go back in a peaceful way. Not for
revenge. Not to harm others or to kill someone. We want these people will go
back home but must be in a peaceful way.

Fred Francis: Are you concerned that the Kurds will be pushed aside? Are you
concerned that the Kurds will be betrayed again, like the United States has
done in the past?

Jalal Talabani: No. No. No. I'm very optimistic. Because for the first time
the relationship between United States and Kurdistan is not a covert
relationship. It is overt. It is political relationship. We have a
relationship with Congress, the State Department, the Pentagon and the White
House. We have met people at the highest level of the U.S. government. They
have promised us not to forget us, not to neglect us, and not to push us

Fred Francis: When will the war happen?

Jalal Talabani: I'm expecting, as a far observer, a war within weeks.

Fred Francis: Regardless of what happens in the United Nations?

Jalal Talabani: Yes. And regardless of what the Turkish parliament has
decided. I think there is decision in the U.S. government. And President
Bush is a serious man. He has decided and the decision is going to be
implemented. It's my opinion. Perhaps I am wrong, but it's my opinion.

Country: Estimated Number    Percentage of population
Turkey: 13-15 million - 20%
Iran: 5.0 - 8%
Iraq: 3.5-4.8 million - 15-20%
Syria: 1 million - 8%
Azerbaijan: 200,000 -2.8%
Armenia: 70,000 - 2.0%
Georgia: 40,000 - 0.9%
Sources: CIA factbook, Kurdish Human Rights Project


by Suzan Fraser
Las Vegas Sun, 9th March

ANKARA, Turkey (AP): Governing party leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who swept
elections paving the way for him to become prime minister, said a decision
on allowing in U.S. troops for an Iraq war could come after the Security
Council has met and a new Turkish government is formed.

Erdogan - a popular politician who already wields power behind the scenes -
has backed the deployment of troops and hinted that he would seek a fresh
vote after parliament last week rejected a resolution allowing 62,000 U.S.
troops that could open a northern front against Iraq.

But in an interview following his massive electoral victory in Sunday's
by-elections, Erdogan appeared to be in no hurry to resubmit a motion on
troop deployment.

He said Turkey was still seeking assurances from the United States on the
role it might play in Iraq if Saddam Hussein is defeated.

Turkey, which fears Iraqi Kurds may declare independence in the aftermath of
a war, has been pressing for a say in the future of Iraq.

"We have the U.N. Security Council before us, we have the process of forming
a new government," Erdogan told CNN-Turk television when asked about a new
resolution. "We need to assess all these very carefully, and then we will
take a decision."

"I cannot give a date. There are also steps that the United States has to
take," he said.

Erdogan's Justice and Development Party captured 84.7 percent of the votes
in balloting in the southeastern town of Siirt, winning all three seats
contested there. Prime Minister Abdullah Gul is expected to resign on
Wednesday to make way for Erdogan.

The vote comes as ships carrying equipment for U.S. troops wait to unload
off Turkey's coast.

U.S. diplomats have said Washington will ask for a U.N. vote on Tuesday on
an ultimatum that would give Iraq until March 17 to disarm or face war.
France opposes the resolution and many council members have expressed

Turks overwhelmingly oppose a war, and Erdogan appeared to be cautious about
backing troop deployment so soon after his victory.

But snubbing the United States is a risk Turkey cannot afford to take. It
would strain ties with Washington, lose a say in the future of neighboring
Iraq and forfeit a $15 billion U.S. aid package offered to offset the
effects of war on the frail economy.

Erdogan blamed parliament's rejection of troop deployment last week on
pressure from Washington.

"On the issue of the motion, there was no need to act with such haste," he
said. The right atmosphere, environment needs to be created."

Analysts say however, that one of Erdogan's first moves as premier could be
to sack ministers who have opposed troop deployment. Erdogan said he planned
to make changes to the government.

"Yes, most certainly," he said when asked whether he would shuffle the

"We will meet with Mr. Gul ... to assess the performances (of the ministers)
and take steps accordingly," he said.

Erdogan had been barred from running in November national elections because
of a conviction for inciting religious hatred over a poem he read at a 1998
rally in Siirt, 60 miles north of the Iraqi border. He spent four months in
prison in 1999.

He was able to run in Sunday's by-elections after Justice lawmakers changed
the constitution.

"The abnormal situation has to return to normal," Erdogan said.

The Siirt by-elections were scheduled after Turkey's election board ruled
that a ballot box there had been tampered with during the national vote.

by Stephan Faris
San Francisco Chrnicle, 9th March

Iskenderun, Turkey -- At the port where a U.S. ship had unloaded military
equipment the day before, a union leader took advantage of the backdrop to
make an anti-war speech.

Behind Bircan Altinuildiz, the head of Turkey's teachers union, U.S. jeeps,
tankers, trucks and bulldozers turned the shipyards into a sea of olive
drab. As photographers jockeyed for position, a member of Altinuildiz's
entourage leaned toward a reporter and said, "He's saying 'No to War,' " he
whispered. "But, it will come anyway."

Even though the Turkish parliament voted last Saturday against allowing
deployment of 62,000 U.S. troops for an invasion of Iraq, the country's
second largest port is buzzing with activity.

Turkey's armed forces insist the equipment is part of a prior agreement to
upgrade Turkish bases and is not preparation for introducing ground forces.
Three U.S. ships had unloaded heavy vehicles and trucks in the Iskenderun
shipyards before the parliamentary vote.

But parliament's no vote appeared to slow down all logistical preparations.
A convoy of more than 30 U.S. military vehicles loaded on flatbed trucks had
been sitting since Sunday. The convoy finally departed Thursday, the day
after Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, Turkey's top military officer, said cooperating with
the United States would shorten the war.

"To say we hesitated is using almost too strong a word," said a U.S.
military source. "We were watching the situation closely, but it has moved
on and we are continuing."

At least four convoys have left the shipyards, two of them en route to a
base at Mardin, a historic city less than 125 miles from the Iraqi border
where U.S. troops are bivouacked in a flour factory.

"They (U.S. officials) still have some expectation that it will pass
parliament," said Ilter Turkmen, a former foreign minister.

Still, parliamentary approval would counter popular sentiment and could
become a drawn out process. Turkish children chant anti-war slogans, while
almost every Turkish newspaper dwells on the horrors of war. Last week, the
NTV television channel dedicated an evening broadcast to showing war footage
of Vietnam.


by Mark Bentley
Reuters, 10th March

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Tayyip Erdogan, leader of Turkey's ruling party, has
won a by election, propelling him from the sidelines of Turkish politics
towards his long-awaited goal of becoming prime minister.

But Erdogan's first days in office, which could begin as early as this week,
were likely to be consumed with the dual foreign policy issues of Iraq and

As Washington and nervous investors wait impatiently, Erdogan indicated on
Sunday it may be some days before he asks parliament to reconsider a U.S.
request to deploy up to 62,000 troops on Turkish soil in preparation for any
war against Iraq.

"It's difficult to talk about timing. There's the second U.N. resolution,
there's the process of forming a government. We have to evaluate these and
then decide," Erdogan told CNN Turk in the first televised interview
following his by-election win.

Parliament on March 1 narrowly rejected Washington's request, shaking the
government and ties with its key NATO ally.

Erdogan on Sunday cited concern for the future of Kurdish-controlled
northern Iraq and problems with a U.S. aid package Ankara says it must gain
to protect its fragile economy.

"There are some steps the U.S. must take. What role will Turkey play in
northern Iraq?...We have to clear this up."

Washington says it may abandon a "northern front" on Baghdad via Turkey's
southern border and an accompanying loan pact worth up to $30 billion if
Ankara does not swiftly approve its plans.

But Turkey wants Washington to pledge concrete steps to prevent the
establishment of a Kurdish state in northern Iraq, fearing independence
there may spark unrest among its own Kurds.

Erdogan must also deal with an impasse on the divided island of Cyprus,
where Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash opposes a deal on a U.N. peace
plan ahead of the island's accession to the European Union. Erdogan's
actions will be seen as key to Turkey's own ambitions to join the EU.

Erdogan, 49, led his Justice and Development Party (AKP) to an overwhelming
November general election win but he was banned from public office because
of a 1998 conviction for Islamist sedition and named ally Abdullah Gul to
head the cabinet.

The AKP government changed the constitution to permit Erdogan to stand in
the by-election and hold a parliamentary seat needed to go on to become
prime minister.

Turkey's fragile markets, pummelled by a 2001 financial crisis, have been on
tenterhooks during the protracted talks with Washington. They fell sharply
when parliament rejected the first motion to approve the arrival of U.S.

While Erdogan's victory and good economic news over the weekend may help
bolster market sentiment on Monday, any sign of more delay on a second vote
could spark selling, analysts say.

"If a deal (with the U.S.) wasn't done, I think you'd have a major reaction
on the markets...I think it's got to be done in the next week, not the next
two weeks," said Tolga Ediz, director of global economics at Lehman Brothers
in London.

Yahoo, 12th March

Scuffles broke out and insults flew in the Turkish parliament during a
debate on the presence of US military personnel in the country despite a
recent vote blocking massive deployment of American troops ahead of a
possible war on Iraq.

The tension rose over a petition by the main opposition Republican People's
Party (CHP) demanding a parliamentary probe into US military activities,
which it said had "turned the country into a theater for war preparations."

Parliament, which is dominated by the ruling Justice and Development Party
(AKP), rejected the petition.

"You are all American footmen," one opposition MP shouted at AKP colleagues,
sparking scuffles and an exchange of insults.

The CHP demand for a probe came amid public anger at accelerated US military
activities in Turkey, which officials say are within the scope of a
parliamentary decision in February allowing US personnel to upgrade Turkish
military facilities.

But legislators rejected a follow-up government motion, calling for the
deployment of 62,000 US soldiers who would invade Iraq from the north, in a
dramatic vote on March 1.

US ships have nevertheless continued to unload military equipment at Turkish
ports, and long convoys of trailer trucks have been carrying them to regions
close to the Iraqi border on a daily basis.

"It is not known what they are carrying. I guess these are not baseball bats
for the American soldiers," CHP deputy Haluk Koc said.

The Turkish military has said the activities are within the scope of the
decision to allow facilitiis modernization.

The government is now considering calling for a second parliamentary vote on
a full-scale deployment of US troops.

The CHP petition, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, suggested that the
initial permission to deploy US engineering corps specialists had become
"meaningless and baseless" after parliament denied US combat troops access
to Turkish territory.

"But despite that, some practices have recently turned the country into a
theater for war preparations... It is understood that new logistical bases
are being set up, that seaports, land bases and certain facilities are being
rented to foreigners," it said.

"The parliament was not asked to authorize such activities in the motion it
approved," it added.

The CHP's move followed the outburst this weekend of parliamentary speaker
Bulent Arinc, who called the US military activities a "de facto" deployment.

"The images that we see on television are extremely disturbing... It makes
me bristle," said Arinc, an influential anti-war member of the ruling party.

CNN, 12th March

STRASBOURG, France -- Europe's top human rights court has upheld a complaint
by convicted Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan that his Turkish trial was

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg said Wednesday the trial
had not been "independent and impartial" and awarded Ocalan $110,000 in

The verdict criticized the initial Ankara State Security Council hearing for
including a military judge during some of the proceedings and for
restricting Ocalan's access to his lawyers.

Both sides have three months to lodge an appeal. If upheld by the European
Court's Grand Chamber, Turkey would be under pressure to try Ocalan again.

The court was set up in 1959 to enforce the convention on human rights, and
its verdicts are binding on all 44 members of the Council of Europe. Turkey
is a member of the council.

However, it is up to governments of member nations to ensure compliance with
court rulings, a process that can take several years.

Ocalan, the only inmate on the prison island of Imrali, failed in some of
his 11 other complaints, including the allegation of inhumane treatment and
illegal detention.

Turkey blames Ocalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party, for heading a
15-year insurgency against Turkey which left more than 30,000 dead.

Turkish commandos arrested him in Kenya in 1999, after which the rebels
declared a cease fire.

Ocalan was sentenced to death at his trial in Turkey that year. The sentence
was reduced to life in prison after Turkey abandoned the death penalty last

by Amberin Zaman in Ankara and David Rennie in Washington
Daily Telegraph, 13th March

Turkish protesters chanting "Yankee go home" clashed with police yesterday
as they tried to enter the eastern Mediterranean port of Iskenderun, where
United States military personnel were unloading equipment for a war against

The crowd, led by members of the Turkish Communist Party, dispersed after
police fired warning shots into the air. Several demonstrators were detained
after scuffles with police.

The demonstration came amid mounting public unease over the presence and
role of American troops in Iskenderun and in the south-eastern province of
Mardin, where they have converted a flour factory into a logistics base.

The ruling Justice and Development Party insists that the personnel are
acting under the terms of a bill approved by the Turkish parliament last
month authorising United States military technicians to upgrade 10 bases and
two ports to be used in a possible war against Iraq.

Turkey's military said it would investigate claims that the US troops were
acting outside their mandate.

Officials in Washington expressed alarm at Turkish statements appearing to
re-open the separate question of American planes using Turkey's air bases or
flying through its airspace.

Faruk Logoglu, the Turkish ambassador to the United States, told American
reporters that the right to overfly Turkey required its own parliamentary
vote, which would not happen before next week at the earliest. "Any
overflight rights in connection with a military operation against Iraq would
be subject to approval of the parliament," Mr Logoglu said.

The vote would be separate from any decision to host US ground troops, he
said, but would still not be easy.

Currently, some 50 British and American planes use the Turkish air base at
Incirlik, but their role is strictly limited to patrolling the northern
no-fly zone over Iraq.

In the event of a war, allied commanders hope to send nearly 100 planes into
northern Iraq from aircraft carriers based in the eastern Mediterranean.

Should Turkish skies be barred to them, Pentagon officials would face flying
over Israel and Jordan - a move fraught with diplomatic difficulties.

Bush administration officials told the New York Times that the president
telephoned Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister-designate, on
Monday to seek his help in speeding up the parliamentary approval process.

"It was not a great phone call," an official said. "The Turks weren't as
responsive as we'd hoped."

The opposition Republican People's Party has accused the government of
signing a secret deal authorising the deployment of 62,000 American combat
troops even before parliament voted on March 1 against a motion that would
have enabled them to set foot on Turkish soil.

Those troops were to be moved to Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, where
they would open a second front against Iraqi forces, seen as vital to ending
a war swiftly and with minimum casualties.

by Philip P. Pan
Washington Post, 15th March

Ankara, Turkey -- After weeks of frustrating delays, the Bush administration
has all but given up on persuading Turkey to let U.S. forces use its
territory to invade Iraq and is now aiming to "discourage and deter" the
Turkish government from sending troops across the border on its own, a
senior U.S. official said Friday.

The United States is also seeking permission to use Turkish airspace, which
Turkey granted during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. But the official said
Turkey will not receive the billions of dollars in economic aid that
Washington had offered if it only grants overflight rights.

"The package is off the table," the official said, noting that other U.S.
allies that have offered their airspace will not be receiving special
economic assistance either.

In response, the Pentagon began moving warships from the eastern
Mediterranean, where they had been waiting pending the Turkish decision.
Several U.S. ships capable of firing Tomahawk cruise missiles sailed toward
the Suez Canal, apparently heading toward a zone where the missiles could be
fired without passing through Turkish airspace.

Two dozen cargo ships -- carrying the 4th Infantry Division's tanks, trucks
and supplies for what was expected to became a northern front against Iraq
-- remained in the waters off Turkey, a Pentagon official said, but only
because commanders have not decided where to send them. It's possible they
could be ordered to Kuwait, where the equipment could be sent into Iraq if
the 4th Infantry is chosen as a "follow-on force" to occupy Iraq or if the
fighting there proves unexpectedly difficult.

The shift in the Bush administration's position here came after months of
negotiations with the Turkish government aimed at a deal that would have let
up to 62,000 U.S. troops enter the country to open a northern front against
Iraq. The Turkish parliament rejected the U.S. deployment by three votes
March 1; Turkey's relatively new leaders have been unwilling to commit
themselves to a second attempt.

The Turkish government could still change course and call a new vote, but
with diplomacy at the United Nations in a final phase and U.S. military
preparations accelerating, the Bush administration "is working under the
assumption now that they're not in," the official said.

As a result, the U.S. diplomatic effort in Ankara has shifted away from
trying to persuade Turkey to approve the U.S. deployment and is now focused
on ensuring that Turkey keeps its own troops out of Iraq. A diplomatic team
led by Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy to northern Iraq, warned
Turkey that any incursion would have a "very negative effect" on relations
with the United States and pose dangers of fighting between Turkish troops
and Kurdish and U.S. forces, the senior U.S. official said.

Over the vocal objections of Iraqi Kurds, the administration had previously
agreed to let Turkish troops follow U.S. forces into northern Iraq and take
up positions about 12.5 miles past the border to help prevent a flow of
refugees and maintain security and stability. But Khalilzad told the Turkish
government the agreement was void because Turkey had not approved the U.S.

"The situation now is that it's all off," the official said. "We don't have
an agreement, and we don't want them to go in unilaterally. The mission now
is to discourage and deter them from going in, and to reach an understanding
with them on legitimate issues of concern."

The official said the United States recognizes Turkey's worries about
refugees, the safety of Iraq's Turkmen population and the risk of attacks by
Turkish Kurdish separatists hiding in Iraqi territory. But he said these
concerns could be addressed without Turkish troops entering Iraq, and
diplomats are trying to arrange a meeting between Turkish leaders and the
Iraqi Kurds next week.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who formally took office Friday, has
been resisting U.S. pressure to hold a second vote on the U.S. deployment,
insisting on further guarantees that Turkey's interests would be protected
in a postwar Iraq.

Turkey's primary fear is emergence of an independent or strongly autonomous
Kurdish state in northern Iraq, which could lead to demands for greater
autonomy from its own Kurdish population or a renewal of fighting by Kurdish
separatists who waged a 15-year guerrilla war against the Turkish military.

U.S. officials say they have repeatedly addressed these concerns and stated
their opposition to an independent Kurdish state.

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