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Turkey Gets New Prime Minister - 2003-03-12

Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected too officially become Turkey's new Prime Minster Wednesday. Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer appointed Mr. Erdogan to take over from Prime Minister Abdullah Gul, who resigned Tuesday.

"I swear in front of the honored Turkish nation. The president gave me the duty to form the 59th government. I thank him for his decision."

Washington wants to station more than 60,000 U.S. soldiers at Turkish bases for a possible attack on Iraq. But the Turkish parliament rejected the proposed military deployment earlier this month.

Mr. Erdogan said Washington must clarify what Ankara's role will be in a post-war Iraq before he sends the motion back to parliament. Turkey fears Iraqi Kurds may try to declare an independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq and inspire its own Kurdish population to rise up.

Meanwhile, ships have been unloading U.S. equipment in Turkey for weeks under an agreement that allows the United States to upgrade bases and ports in the country. This, despite the fact that a solid majority of Turks are against a war in Iraq, and oppose U.S. troop deployment in the country.

That opposition boiled over Wednesday when Turkish soldiers fired warning shots at a group of protesters who tried to enter a port where American military equipment was being unloaded.

Turkish media reported about 300 members of the Turkish Communist Party chanted "Yankee go home" as they tried to force their way through the gates of the port at Iskenderun.

Mr. Erdogan has hinted that he favors granting the Americans access to bases. But has said that he would like to see what happens first in the United Nations Security Council. The United States and Britain do not yet have a majority to support a resolution that would authorize force to disarm Iraq.