Turkish troops have crossed into northern Iraq in response to fears the U.S. led war against Baghdad could encourage the region's Kurdish minority to declare independence. The Bush administration had encouraged Ankara to keep its troops out of Iraq.
At least 1,000 Turkish troops were reported to have moved into northern Iraq late Friday, brushing aside calls from the United States not to do so.
But Turkey's ambassador in Washington, Farouk Logoglu, described the move as necessary to prevent pro-independence Kurdish groups from taking advantage of instability in Iraq and declaring and independent state. "Turkey has a series of legitimate concerns that necessitates a Turkish presence in northern Iraq. First is to secure Turkish borders," he said.
Just hours earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell urged Ankara not to send troops into Iraq, as the Turkish military has done repeatedly over the years in response to what it says have been pro-independence Kurdish groups taking part in terrorism. "At the moment, we don't see any need for a Turkish incursion into northern Iraq and we are talking with the Turkish authorities," he said.
Kurds living in the region straddling the borders of Turkey, Iraq and Syria have long sought an independent state and staged a failed uprising against Baghdad after the first Gulf War 12 years ago.