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Turkey to Consider U.S. Request to Deploy Troops in Turkey - 2003-03-11


Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul said on Tuesday Ankara would consider an urgent U.S. request to deploy troops in Turkey only after party leader Tayyip Erdogan takes over from him as the country's new leader. Brian Purchia has the latest.

Turkey's prime minister elect Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he wants the United States to clarify what Turkey's role would be in a post-war Iraq. He says this needs to happen before he resubmits a U.S. troop deployment motion to parliament.

TAYYIP ERDOGAN, JUSTICE AND DEVELOPMENT PARTY (AKP) LEADER
"What will Turkey's role be? We are talking about a political approach. What will Turkey’s role be? If Turkey will have no role then why is Turkey sharing such a risk? This hasn't been clarified either.”

Turkey fears that Iraqi Kurds may try to declare an independent Kurdistan in a post-Saddam Iraq and inspire the Kurdish population in Turkey to rise up.

Mr. Erdogan suggested that Iraq may be able to avoid war if Saddam Hussein removed himself from power.

TAYYIP ERDOGAN, JUSTICE AND DEVELOPMENT PARTY (AKP) LEADER
"I would rather not say 'Go to exile', but in the face of such negativities he (Iraqi President Saddam Hussein) may say 'I should quit my job'. He should say it, he can say it and it would be a very beneficial thing."

President Bush spoke with Mr. Erdogan by telephone Monday. No details of the conversation were released. Public opinion in Turkey remains strongly against war with Iraq.

The U.S. wants to deploy 60,000 troops to Turkey to open a second front in northern Iraq in case of war. In exchange, Washington has offered Turkey a multi-billion dollar package of U.S. grants and loan guarantees.

Mr. Erdogan, Turkey's ruling party leader, is poised to become the next prime minister this week after winning a seat in parliament in a special election held Sunday.

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