- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 5, 2009

ISTANBUL | Several thousand leftists staged anti-U.S. and anti-NATO protests in Turkey on Saturday, shouting “Yankee go home!” the day before President Obama’s scheduled visit.

“Obama, don’t come! We don’t want you!” protesters shouted in the Turkish capital of Ankara as riot police blocked the streets to contain the crowds. Mr. Obama was scheduled to arrive in Ankara on Sunday.

Thousands of protesters also took to the streets in Istanbul’s Kadikoy district, chanting “Yankee go home!” A banner read: “Obama, go back home.”

The demonstrators in Ankara and Istanbul called for NATO’s disbandment as world leaders gathered for the Western alliance’s 60th anniversary summit in Strasbourg, France. Turkey is a NATO member.

NATO leaders Saturday appointed Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen as the bloc’s new secretary-general after overcoming Turkish objections to him for supporting a cartoonist’s right to caricature the prophet Muhammad.

NATO’s outgoing head, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said the bloc’s 28 member nations reached unanimity after a series of Turkish “concerns” were addressed at the alliance’s two-day summit.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters that his government’s demands had included the closure of a Kurdish satellite television broadcaster based in Denmark, the establishment of contacts between NATO and Islamic countries and the appointments of a Turk as an aide to Mr. Rasmussen and Turkish generals to senior NATO command positions.

Mr. Erdogan said that Mr. Obama had been heavily involved in the negotiations.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul “gave his approval after receiving information that our reservations have been addressed under the guarantorship of Obama,” Mr. Erdogan said. “We hope our concerns will be met.”

Mr. Obama said there had been “important efforts to make sure that everyone felt included.”

Mr. Obama’s two-day trip to Turkey is as symbolic of Western unity as it is strategic, following talks and handshakes with heads of the Group of 20 nations, NATO and the European Union. His path across Europe leads to a group of Muslims with secular ideals, a stable nation in an unstable region and a city, Istanbul, that straddles a strait between Asia and Europe.

Mr. Obama is admired in Turkey. One Kurdish village sacrificed 44 sheep when he was elected, and a major bank used his image in a successful ad campaign on billboards and television in recent weeks. Still, many Turks remain suspicious about U.S. intentions.

In 2003, Turkey’s lawmakers voted not to let President George W. Bush use Turkish soil to open an invasion front against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, fraying the alliance.

Any tension over hard issues such as Turkey’s denial of an Armenian genocide in the Ottoman era is likely to stay private during Mr. Obama’s journey.

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