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Turkey PM Discusses Iraq with Egyptian President - 2003-01-05


Turkey's Prime Minister Abdullah Gul met with Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak Sunday on the second leg of his regional tour aimed at averting war with Iraq. Turkey hopes to help prevent a possible U.S. led war with Iraq, but might provide support in the event of a U.S. military strike.

On the first Mideast tour by a senior member of the new Turkish government, Abdullah Gul is seeking to reinforce Turkey's relations with the Arab world ahead of a possible war with Iraq.

Turkish and Egyptian leaders have called on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to cooperate fully with United Nations arms inspectors.

The United States has threatened to disarm Iraq by force unless a complete accounting of Baghdad's disarmament process is made.

After his meeting with President Mubarak, the Turkish state-run Anatolia news agency quoted Prime Minister Gul as saying everyone in this region will suffer from the damage of war, so everyone must try to the very end to prevent the war.

While in Cairo, Mr. Gul was scheduled to hold talks with Arab League Chief Amr Moussa. The Turks and Arab countries say they fear war against Iraq will badly hurt their economies, create regional instability and could lead to the breakup of Iraq, tempting Iraqi Kurds to seek an independent state.

The Turkish government says it would act to protect a small Turkmen minority in northern Iraq should war break out.

The Turkish newspaper Millyet reports that Turkish tanks and troops have been crossing into northern Iraq recently to bolster the Turkish military presence there.

As a fellow NATO member Turkey is one of Washington's closest allies and is under pressure from the U.S. to provide military support should Iraq be attacked.

It has not ruled out allowing U.S. forces to use Turkish air bases in the event of war.

Mr. Gul met with Syrian President Bashar al-Asad on Saturday to push for a diplomatic solution on Iraq.

Mr. Assad said the first thing now required is for the U.N. arms inspectors to complete their search.

The Turkish prime minister travels to Jordan Monday to meet with King Abdullah.

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