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News, 09-14/03/03 (4) LAST DAYS OF KURDISH INDEPENDENCE * 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 TURKISH PREVARICATION * 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 LAST DAYS OF KURDISH INDEPENDENCE http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/2835683.stm * TURKMEN FEARS OF IRAQI CONFLICT 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 imperative." 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 independence. 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. http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c =StoryFT&cid=1045511537480&p=1012571727172 * BIRDS ARE ABSENT FROM THE HILLS OF QUSHTAPA 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 fertile. 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 (KDP). 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." http://www.reuters.co.uk/newsArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=2360723 * IRAQ RIGS ITS OILFIELDS TO EXPLODE 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 closed. 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." http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/w-me/2003/mar/13/031304612.html * BOMB GOES OFF NEAR POLITICIAN'S HOME 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. http://www.iht.com/articles/89821.html * KURDS ARE ABOUT TO BE BETRAYED - AGAIN 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 again. 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. http://www.msnbc.com/news/881469.asp * JALAL TALABANI SPEAKS TO NBC NEWS IN NORTHERN IRAQ 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 region? 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 aside. 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 TURKISH PREVARICATION http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/w-me/2003/mar/09/030906468.html * TURKEY'S ERDOGAN TO WAIT ON TROOP MOVE 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 reservations. 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 Cabinet. "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. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/chronicle/a/2003/03/09/MN184886 .DTL * TURKISH PORT ABUZZ WITH U.S. ACTIVITY 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. [.....] http://www.reuters.co.uk/newsArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=2350572 * ERDOGAN TO BECOME TURKISH PREMIER 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 Cyprus. 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. troops. 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. http://sg.news.yahoo.com/030311/1/38tiq.html * TURKISH MPS IN FURIOUS DEBATE OVER US MILITARY PRESENCE 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. http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/europe/03/12/ocalan.trial/index.html * OCALAN TRIAL UNFAIR, COURT SAYS 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 unfair. The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg said Wednesday the trial had not been "independent and impartial" and awarded Ocalan $110,000 in costs. 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 year. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=%2Fnews%2F2003%2F03%2F13%2Fwt urk13.xml * POLICE SHOOT AT TURKISH DEMO 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 Iraq. 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. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/chronicle/a/2003/03/15/MN147063 .DTL * U.S. READY TO THROW IN TOWEL ON TURKEY 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. deployment. "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. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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