- The Washington Times - Monday, October 28, 2002

NICOSIA, Cyprus Politicians competing in Turkey's upcoming elections are increasingly voicing caution to the nation's participation in a U.S.-led coalition to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
Ahead of Sunday's elections, politicians from across the political spectrum are assuring the electorate that Turkish involvement in any action against Iraq will be minimal.
"I believe the strategic partnership between Turkey and the United States should have a solid content," said Devlet Bahceli, deputy prime minister and leader of the conservative Nationalist Action Party (MHP).
"Rather than act as a partner ready to satisfy every demand made by the United States, there should be a concept of strategic partnership reconciling mutual national interests," he said
"If a military intervention in Iraq takes place, Turkey should foil any undesirable attempt such as the establishment of an independent Kurdish state in Northern Iraq. Turkey should also calculate the probable economic consequences of an event that could take place near its borders."
President Bush repeated a pledge over the weekend to lead an international coalition to disarm Iraq, with or without approval of the U.N. Security Council.
NATO-member Turkey, which provides the base for U.S. and British flights to enforce a no-fly zone over Northern Iraq, is considered a key link in any plan to strike Iraq.
But Turkey fears that Iraq's Kurdish minority, which is now protected by the no-fly zone, will embolden Turkey's own restive Kurdish minority to rebel against Ankara.
While the Turkish masses demand economic revival after years of crisis, Turkey's relations with the United States are dominating the present campaign.
Newspapers on the left and right frequently refer to Washington as a hyperpower.
Equally worrying are the difficulties in the path of Turkish hopes for joining the European Union. Turkish candidacy is blocked until Turkey complies with the EU's human rights and economic requirements.
Columnist Erdal Guven warned that the whole map of the Middle East is about to be redrawn as the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism proceeds.
"Afghanistan was the first stop. Iraq is next in line," he wrote in the center-left newspaper Istanbul Radikal. "Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia might also be next in line after Iraq. There is no doubt that this will have an impact on Palestine. Later they will expand toward the Far East."
He concluded: "The United States has no choice if it wants to fulfill the concept of war against global terrorism."
Turkish officials claim they have received U.S. assurances that no plan exists to establish a separate Kurdish state on the ruins of Saddam's Iraq.
In a recent television appearance, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit stressed the solidity of his Cabinet's links with the United States.
But while referring to "our American friends," he reiterated that Turkey cannot "accept every demand" from Washington.
"As long as we keep a healthy dialogue with the United States, I am confident that solutions can be found," he said.
Concerning the role of the Turkish military in any conflict south of Turkey's border, Mr. Ecevit said:
"The general staff and the ministries are taking great pains to ensure that if war does come its effects on Turkey are kept to the absolute minimum."


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