- The Washington Times - Monday, September 13, 2004

From combined dispatches

BAGHDAD — Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress fired one of its leading members after he said on a visit to Israel that many Iraqis would like to establish diplomatic relations, a spokesman for the group said yesterday.

Turkey’s foreign minister, meanwhile, was quoted saying his country could stop cooperating with U.S. authorities in Iraq because of a U.S. offensive in northern Iraq and the reported deaths of ethnic Turkmen civilians.

During an emergency meeting in Baghdad, the leadership of the Iraqi National Congress decided to “fire” Mithal al-Alusi over his visit to Israel, spokesman Haidar al-Mousawi said in an interview.

Mr. al-Alusi’s visit to a terrorism conference in Israel angered his colleagues, who said they learned about it from the news media. A part of Mr. Chalabi’s inner circle, Mr. al-Alusi headed the de-Ba’athification Committee, which fired thousands of members of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party from their jobs.

Israel’s daily Haaretz quoted Mr. al-Alusi as saying that many elements in Iraq are interested in diplomatic ties with Israel.

“His statements, which were carried by the media, do not represent the Iraqi National Congress’ point of view,” an INC statement said.

Mr. Chalabi, the INC leader, is a former member of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council and currently a member of the National Council, a 100-member transitional assembly intended to serve as a watchdog over the interim Iraqi government until January elections.

Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has said Iraq will not make any move to normalize relations with Israel before other Arab nations do so.

In the Turkish capital Ankara, officials protested a major U.S. offensive last week in the town of Tal Afar, a suspected haven for foreign fighters near the Syrian border, which has a large indigenous Turkmen population.

Turkey, a NATO ally, views northern Iraq as part of its sphere of influence and has close ethnic and linguistic links with the region’s Turkmen minority.

“If things continue in this way, we told [the United States] very clearly that Turkey’s cooperation on matters concerning Iraq will come to an end,” CNN Turk television quoted Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul as saying.

He did not specify what cooperation might suffer, but Turkey is a key U.S. ally in a largely hostile region and U.S. forces use its Incirlik military base.

Turkish officials say Turkmen representatives put the number of Turkmen civilians killed in the violence as high as 500, but they quote U.S. sources as putting the death toll at fewer than 50. No independently verifiable figures are available.

“There should not be any civilian casualties. Even a few casualties is unacceptable,” a Turkish official told reporters.

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