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Iran, Turkey Oppose US Attack on Iraq - 2002-09-01

Iran and Turkey, two countries who have their own long-standing differences, have joined in voicing opposition to any American assault on Iraq.

Key U.S. ally Turkey and Iran, which President Bush describes as part of an "axis of evil," agreed Sunday that they want the U.S. to work out its differences with Iraq through "peaceful means." The foreign ministers of the two countries, meeting in Tehran, said "any change [in Iraq] must be decided by the Iraqi people."

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi described the Iraqi regime as "unpredictable" and said over the past two decades it had caused much damage to countries in the region, an obvious reference to the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war and Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

But "this should not justify any interference in the affairs of Iraq," he said. The foreign minister also called for consultations between Turkey, Iran and other neighboring countries as a way of "preventing a bigger crisis in the future."

Turkey, a NATO member, has allowed American warplanes to use its air bases to patrol the "no-fly" zone over northern Iraq but has steadfastly opposed the use of military force against Iraq.

Turkey has had its own differences with Iran, which it accuses of sheltering members of the rebel Kurdistan Workers Party. Tehran denies the charge.

Dr. Abdel Moneim Said, head of the al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, says that despite their differences over some issues, Iran and Turkey are unified on the question of an military strike against Iraq because both fear it would lead to a division of Iraq that would result in the formation of an independent Kurdish state."

"They have always expressed an opposition for an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq," said Mr. Said. "So there is something that is highly strategic that binds these two countries because any kind of secession from Iraq or division of Iraq will lead to more secessionist movements in the south of Turkey and the northwest of Iran."

Iran has called on Iraq's neighboring countries to urge Iraq to adhere to United Nations resolutions, including cooperation with weapons inspectors who left Iraq in 1998.