- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 2, 2003

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged parliament yesterday to make a rapid decision on Washington’s request to send troops to neighboring Iraq, and U.S. officials praised Mr. Erdogan’s government for handling the matter “the right way.”

The United States has asked Turkey, the only Muslim-majority NATO member, to provide as many as 10,000 troops as part of a multinational force, but some in Ankara have sought firm U.S. action against Kurdish militants before granting the request.

“We want a decision from the assembly rapidly on sending the troops,” Mr. Erdogan told Turkey’s NTV news channel.

With public opinion opposed to the war in Iraq before it began in March, the Turkish parliament rejected the Bush administration’s request for land passage for U.S. forces through Turkish territory.

The administration has voiced its disappointment in the months since that vote and privately told Mr. Erdogan’s government that it should have done its homework and not go to parliament without counting the votes first.

This time, the government is following a path that “makes sense,” a senior U.S. official said.

“Last time they didn’t realize what they needed — they hadn’t done any vote counting. They say they didn’t know how to do it,” the official said. “Now they are working in a very clear, conscious way, having seen that they didn’t do it the right way before.”

A senior Turkish diplomat in Washington said the government is “trying to make sure they have the votes, though there is no way to know 100 percent.”

Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry in Ankara said yesterday that Turkey and the United States had agreed on a plan to banish the threat to Turkey from Kurdish rebels based in camps in northern Iraq.

The Bush administration has assured Turkey that it is committed to dealing with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), also known as Kadek, the State Department’s terrorism coordinator, Cofer Black, told reporters during a visit to Ankara.

“We are very clear about this: PKK/Kadek is designated by the United States as a terrorist organization. There is no place in Iraq for PKK/Kadek,” he said.

Turkey maintains thousands of troops just inside northern Iraq in an effort to stop PKK militants from attacking Turkish soil. That deployment has caused friction with Washington, which has warned Ankara against any unilateral action in Iraq.

U.S. troops briefly detained 11 Turkish commandos in northern Iraq in July on suspicion they were involved in a plot to kill a senior Iraqi Kurdish official.

A U.S. official said yesterday that Ankara had pledged to refrain from unilateral military action in return for the $8.5 billion in loans for its ailing economy that Washington pledged last week.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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