- The Washington Times - Monday, December 3, 2001

ANKARA, Turkey Turkey, an important ally in the war on terrorism, is expected to urge Secretary of State Colin L. Powell not to expand the war to Iraq when he visits tomorrow during a trip to Europe, Central Asia and Russia.
Despite the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, speculation about a U.S.-led attack on Iraq is uppermost on the minds of Turkish policy-makers and commentators, who fear a war on their southern border would have devastating economic consequences on their country.
The seriousness of the debate was underscored last week when Iraq's ambassador to Ankara, Farouk Yahya Hijazi, was abruptly recalled to Baghdad.
U.S. officials and recent media reports have claimed that Mr. Hijazi, a former chief of the dreaded Iraqi intelligence service Mukhabarat, met with Osama bin Laden in Kandahar in 1998. Mr. Hijazi denied the charges when he left Ankara on Friday and said he was departing after a normal diplomatic rotation of three years.
But informed sources said Mr. Hijazi's departure was partially a result of pressure on Ankara from Washington, which felt the ambassador should not be a part of the diplomatic community when Mr. Powell makes his first visit to Turkey.
The Turkish media has given prominence to comments by former CIA Director James Woolsey that Turkey should be given a stake in the oil-rich Kurdish provinces of northern Iraq in return for Ankara's military assistance in toppling Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit faced a question last week about the possibility of a Turkish return to Mosul eight decades after the British annexed the province to Iraq amid the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
Mr. Ecevit reiterated his adamant opposition to any U.S. operation in Iraq but said he was waiting to hear from Mr. Powell on the U.S. position toward Baghdad.
Defense Minister Sabahattin akmakoglu last week indicated a possible softening in the official line on Iraq, saying Turkey could review its policy against an attack on Iraq. "If new conditions arise, new evaluations might have to be made," he was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, Turkey has stepped up security measures on the rugged Iraqi border to control the region and to stop any flood of refugees if Washington does decide to unleash an attack on Baghdad.
The Turkish Second Army was increasing patrols and taking other measures to halt any influx of refugees similar to the one that took place following the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
Turkey also has committed 90 special forces troops to the war effort in Afghanistan and is prepared to send a peacekeeping force numbering nearly 3,000, if needed. The Bush administration has said it is premature to deploy a U.N.-sponsored peacekeeping force while the military campaign is still underway.
"We have indicated that we would consider favorably the use of Turkish troops for peacekeeping, but no such request has come," said Huseyin Dirioz, a Foreign Ministry spokesman.
"Our concerns are that Turkish troops play a role" in ensuring stability in Afghanistan.
Foreign Minister Ismail Cem has indicated Turkey could play an important role as an intermediary between Afghanistan's Northern Alliance and Pakistan, which have traditionally been at odds with each other.
Turkey has strong links to elements in the Northern Alliance, particularly the warlord in Mazar-e-Sharif, Rashid Dostum, while also maintaining close ties to Islamabad.

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