- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2003

President Bush requested yesterday a much-reduced $8.5 billion package of economic aid to Turkey, seeking to mend fences with a longtime ally despite Ankara's refusal to permit U.S.-led forces to use the country as an invasion route into neighboring Iraq.
The surprise request, which faces an uncertain fate in Congress, is less than a third of the $30 billion grant and loan guarantee package Washington had offered Turkey if it cooperated in the Iraq operation.
U.S. officials said the money was intended to cushion the shock to the staggering Turkish economy from the war.
"The United States recognizes that Turkey has some needs regardless of the level of their cooperation," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.
Mr. Boucher called the Turkish package a "request, not a commitment at this stage" and said it would be conditioned on continued economic reforms in Turkey.
The White House said the Turkey request was part of a supplemental funding bill for the war that also includes aid for Jordan, Israel, Bahrain, Oman, and a number of Central and Eastern European nations backing the war.
With a planned deployment of 62,000 U.S. troops to Turkey blocked, U.S. military officials have been working overtime to prevent a fresh clash between Turkish troops and ethnic Kurds in northern Iraq.
The Turkish government has made clear that it will not accept any move by the Kurds, close allies of the U.S.-led coalition, to form an independent state, for fear it would revive separatist efforts by Turkey's own large Kurdish minority. Iraqi Kurdish leaders have vowed to resist any Turkish incursions.
U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters in Ankara after a second day of talks that he had not secured a promise from Turkish political and military leaders not to intervene. On Sunday, President Bush issued a stern warning to Ankara not to take military action, saying it would complicate the mission to oust Saddam Hussein.
"This is a difficult and complicated issue," said Mr. Khalilzad, who said the talks would continue.
But the new government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent clear signals this week that Turkey did not plan a major military incursion, telling EU and NATO officials that any mission would be solely to control a flood of Iraqi refugees and prevent a humanitarian disaster.
Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told Associated Press in an interview that his country has a contingency plan to set up a 12-mile buffer zone across the border in Iraq but that the government has made no move as it monitors the situation.
"We want to keep all the refugees there," Mr. Gul said.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said Turkish officials had outlined their buffer-zone plan yesterday after the European Union said further aid to Ankara could be affected by military action in northern Iraq.
Turkish popular sentiment has been overwhelmingly against the war, in part because of the destabilizing flow of 500,000 Iraqi refugees and the severe economic hardship that followed the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
This week the United States agreed to establish its own military command in northern Iraq, in large part to reassure the Turks that their interests would be protected and to control any refugee crisis.
Philip H. Gordon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said the failure of the United States to secure full Turkish support for the Iraq campaign "has really shattered the notion that we are Turkey's best friend and will always stand with them and that Turkey in turn will always be there for us."
He said it would prove a "Pyrrhic victory" for the Bush administration to oust Saddam only to be confronted with "instability in northern Iraq and destabilization in Turkey."

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