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Thursday, 5. December 2002 13:17
US warns Turkey over unilateral action against Iraqi Kurds: report
ANKARA, Dec 5 (AFP) - 11h27 - US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz has warned Turkey against unilateral military action to prevent breakaway Kurds in northern Iraq from moving towards independence if a war breaks out, a Turkish newspaper reported on Thursday.
"It will be more useful for Turkey to act as part of a coalition in order to protect its interests in northern Iraq rather than taking unilateral action," Wolfowitz told the mass-circulation Hurriyet in an interview during a visit here Wednesday.
He said any Turkish intervention in northern Iraq should be coordinated with Washington and the Iraqi Kurds, who could be a crucial US ally against Baghdad in the event of war.
Turkey has threatened to use force to prevent the establishment of an independent state in mainly Kurdish northern Iraq, which has enjoyed virtual autonomy since the 1991 Gulf War, escaping Baghdad's grip thanks to the protection of a US-enforced no-fly zone.
Ankara worries that Kurdish independence in Iraq would set an example for its own Kurds in adjoining southeastern Turkey, where a Kurdish rebellion for self-rule has recently subsided.
Turkey already has several hundred troops in northern Iraq, from where it has pursued Turkish Kurdish rebels in cooperation with local Kurds.
Following talks with Turkish leaders on Tuesday and Wednesday, Wolfowitz said that Ankara's support against Iraq was "assured."
Visiting Iraqi Kurdistan, US senators stress support to Iraqi Kurds
Iraqi Kurdistan Dispatch, 8 December 2002
A US Senate delegation, comprising Senator Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Chuck Hagel, member of the committee, visited Iraqi Kurdistan region between 6 and 7 December, “in order to closely examine the prevailing situation in the Iraqi Kurdistan region and demonstrate US support for the Kurdish people”, Kurdish satellite channel, KTV, reported on 7 December.
Upon its arrival, the US Senate delegation met leading members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan at the KDP headquarters in Salah-al-Din resort said KTV.
In the presence of the head of KDP-led Kurdistan Regional Government, Nechirvan Barzani and head of PUK-led Regional Government, Dr Barham Salih, the two senators addressed a session of the Iraqi Kurdistan National Assembly in the regional capital Arbil.
“The two senators stressed the necessity to maintain the protection of the Kurdistan people, … and said that the democratic life and reconstruction which have been developed in this region [Iraqi Kurdistan] are worthy to become a model for the rest of Iraq”, said the daily Brayati on 8 December.
Praising the Kurds' effort to unite their political stance, Senator Joseph Biden stressed that “the near future bode happy prospects for all the Iraqis, and for the Kurds in particular.”
In his address, the US senator “stressed the need to continue efforts to build a secure future for the Kurds within a united Iraq, which, according to him, would reassure the regional countries and ensure the emergence of a strong and united Iraq” said KTV.
Earlier, during the parliamentary session, the Speaker of the Kurdistan National Assembly, Dr Roj Nuri Shawes shed light on “the prevailing situation in the region and its democratic experience”, said KTV.
Senator Joseph Biden also stressed that he would faithfully convey the positive reality he observed in Iraqi Kurdistan to the US officials. He concluded his address by saying: “We came here to tell you that the mountains are not your only friends”, reported KTV.
Iraqi Kurdistan Dispatch, news, 8 December 2002
Iraqi Kurdish sides have denied Turkish press reports that the United States has started a military build up in northern Iraq shipping in 50 TIR trucks of equipment through the Habur border gate and boosting its military presence to 500 personnel in the region.
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) region's Prime Minister Barham Saleh told the Turkish Daily News in a telephone interview that there was no such American presence in the area controlled by his administration.
He said the Americans have not brought in any military hardware or ground to air missiles as the reports suggest. He also said there is no American personnel in the region.
Safeen Dizayee, the Ankara representative of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) which controls the remaining parts of northern Iraq also denied the reports.
He said there was no American military hardware in the region or any personnel. "Trucks carrying goods come and go from our region to Turkey but none have shipped any military equipment to our side," Dizayee said.
"There is no such American presence in our region and the reports are not true," he declared.
The reports first surfaced on the internet when a group called M5 reported that 40 Mercedes trucks carrying "sophisticated U.S. military hardware" had crossed the Habur border gate into northern Iraq.
On Sunday the M5 group claimed 50 trucks were involved and were carrying anti-missile systems and Patriot missiles to northern Iraq. The M5 group said the "military convoy" had passed through the southeastern provincial center of Diyarbakir's "Ofis district" which houses domestic and international media offices in broad daylight on its way to Habur "nine days ago."
Private TV station NTV reported on Monday that the U.S. had started a military buildup in northern Iraq. NTV claimed American military hardware shipped into Incirlik was transported to northern Iraq by 50 lorries and were handed over to 500 American special intelligence personnel. NTV claimed these personnel would hand over the weapons to the 2,000 Peshmerga (Kurdish militia) they had previously trained.
Kurdish diplomatic sources who asked not to be named told the Turkish Daily News there had been discussions with the U.S. about possible deployment of such weapons and training of the Peshmerga but none had been realized.
Turkish military sources also denied such a U.S. military presence in northern Iraq.
The U.S. sent a defense and intelligence mission into northern Iraq last February to make an inventory of the defense capabilities of the area. After that another U.S. military mission also visited the region to assess the capabilities of the Kurdish forces and the logistic support that will be needed in case the Americans launch an attack to topple Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq.