Iraqi Kurds say US troops welcome, but not Turks
19 March 2003
NICOSIA, March 19 (AFP) - 1h10 - One of two main Kurdish factions that
controls northern Iraq said Wednesday it would support the presence of US but
not Turkish troops in its territory.
"US forces have set (the goals) of their mission to free the Iraqi people and
change the regime," Hoshyar Zebari, head of foreign relations for the Kurdistan
Democratic Party (KDP), told the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera channel.
"Turkish troops ... are not part of the international coalition, and
therefore, will deploy for other goals," he added, alluding to Turkey's desire
to keep any Kurdish aspirations for independence in check.
Speaking after talks Tuesday between Iraqi Kurdish leaders and US envoy
Zalmay Khalilzad in Ankara, Zebari said his party "is not opposed to the entry
of US troops into Iraqi Kurdistan."
His remarks were echoed by Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of
Kurdistan (PUK), the other Kurdish group that has enjoyed de facto autonomy in
northern Iraq since the 1991 Gulf war.
The US envoy said after the talks that the KDP and PUK had agreed they would
"put whatever forces they have under the command and control of the coalition
commanders" in the event of a US-led strike on Iraq.
Khalilzad also warned Turkey, which has massed troops on its border with
Iraq, against sending its troops in, saying this was not the best way for Ankara
to defend its interests in the region.
Turkey, reeling from a 15-year Kurdish rebellion in its southeast, fears a
Kurdish state at its doorstep could reignite separatist violence among its own
Kurds at home.
The Turkish parliament has rejected a US proposal to deploy up to 62,000
troops in Turkey to fight a northern front in Iraq, but Justice Minister Cemil
Cicek said Wednesday a new motion would be put before the house soon.