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New Turkish Leadership Opposes US Strikes on Iraq
Published on Monday, November 4, 2002 by the Associated Press
New Turkish Leadership Opposes U.S. Strikes on Iraq
by Zeynep Alemdar
 

ANKARA, Turkey – The leader of the winning party in Turkey's elections said Monday he is opposed to a U.S. military strike against neighboring Iraq, unless approved by the United Nations.

"We do not want war, blood, tears and dead in our region," said Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of the Justice and Development Party, which has Islamic roots.

During a victory celebration at the party's headquarters, he said Turkey was "obliged by the United Nations' decisions."

Erdogan expressed hope that no U.S. strike against Iraq would take place if proof that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction emerged. "Our wish is that it ends with peace," he said.

Turkey's cooperation is crucial to any operation against Iraq. About 1,700 U.S. military forces are stationed in Turkey. Most are at Incirlik Air Base, where U.S. and British planes patrolling Iraq's northern "no-fly" zone are based. Incirlik was also a staging point for attacks on Iraq during the Gulf War.

Erdogan's statement was similar to other Turkish leaders' opposition to a strike against Iraq. Turkey fears a war would destabilize the region and harm Turkey's frail economy.

Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, the head of Turkey's military, is traveling to the United States this week for talks with U.S. officials about possible military action against Iraq.

Gen. Tommy Franks, the head of any future Iraq operation, visited Turkey last month.

Erdogan said there was no consensus about Iraq "like the one the world had before the Afghanistan war.... Even the American nation is not clear on it."

© 2002 The Associated Press

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