- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 24, 2004

President Bush plans to spend tomorrow night in an Ankara hotel where a bomb exploded yesterday, and then travel to a second Turkish city, Istanbul, where another bomb killed four persons.

White House officials said the bombings would not deter Mr. Bush from attending a summit in Turkey, where he plans to challenge NATO members to train Iraqi security forces after next week’s transfer of sovereignty.

“It does appear that the terrorist attacks are intended to disrupt preparations for the upcoming NATO summit,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. “In terms of the schedule, nothing has changed.”

In Istanbul, summit organizers are taking extraordinary security measures that include shutting down the city within a six-mile radius of the meeting. Oil tankers and even fishing boats will be banned from the Bosporus Straits, which divide the city and the continents of Europe and Asia.

But yesterday, a bomb exploded on a crowded bus as it rolled through a residential suburb of Istanbul, killing four and wounding at least 14. Turkish police said the bomb detonated prematurely in the lap of the female terrorist who was carrying it.

Hours earlier, three persons were injured in the capital city of Ankara when a bomb exploded outside the Hilton hotel, where Mr. Bush will spend tomorrow night.

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said Mr. Bush would stay in Istanbul until Tuesday, the day before the transfer of authority in nearby Iraq. She and other White House officials said there are no plans for Mr. Bush to commemorate the transfer by reprising his visit to Baghdad, where he served dinner to U.S. troops on Thanksgiving.

As the administration has been warning for months, violence in Iraq is intensifying as the transfer of authority draws near. But Miss Rice said the terrorists and insurgents would not rattle the West.

“They’re trying to derail the process of building a stable Iraq,” she said. “This is an affront and a challenge to the transition to sovereignty to the Iraqis.

“This is, I think, meant to be a challenge to the new Iraqi government. And we’ve said all along that we fully expected that there was likely to be an uptick in violence as they try to derail this transition.”

On the way to Turkey, Mr. Bush will stop briefly in Ireland for a summit with leaders of the European Union. At this meeting and the NATO summit in Istanbul, the president hopes to repair relations with allies who opposed last year’s liberation of Iraq.

“There is a strong will on both sides to put the disagreements of the 2003 in the past and — without prejudice to any government’s position about Iraq or other issues in 2003 — to move on,” said a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Although the majority of NATO member countries are contributing troops to Iraq, the alliance has no plans to deploy a collective force like the one patrolling Afghanistan. Still, the Bush administration wants NATO to take a greater role in training Iraqi security forces after next week’s transfer of sovereignty.

Iraqi officials asked NATO for such assistance earlier this week.

“NATO needs to respond to the Iraqis’ request,” Miss Rice said. “This is about the spread of freedom and liberty. That’s what NATO has stood for from the very beginning.

“It is consistent with NATO’s values,” she added. “Many of the members of NATO would not be free and at liberty themselves had it not been for the sacrifices of others, including sacrifices in the United States.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide