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EU Proposes Huge Increase in Aid to Turkey - 2003-03-26

The European Commission has proposed a large increase in aid to Turkey over the next three years, but says Ankara's effort to join the Europe Union could be jeopardized if it intervenes in Iraq or slows its political reforms.

The European Commission has proposed that Turkey receive about one billion dollars over three years starting in 2004 - double the current rate of aid, to support its preparations to join the EU.

However, EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen told reporters in Brussels that if there were some kind of Turkish invasion of Iraq, it would have serious consequences for Turkey's relations with the EU.

Commissioner Verheugen also called on Turkey to do more to eliminate torture, to promote cultural rights for minorities and to reduce the influence of the military in politics. He is heard here through an interpreter.

"This is why it is indispensable that the role of the army in Turkey is defined in such a way as to ensure that the government and parliament control the military, rather than the military controlling the government and the parliament," he said.

All these issues are part of strict political terms Turkey must meet by December of 2004 to receive a recommendation from the commission to open negotiations on joining the EU. Mr. Verheugen said these reforms must not be delayed by the Iraq situation.

Turkey has said it may send troops into northern Iraq to supplement an existing small Turkish force that has been there for some time. Turkish armor and trucks have gathered on the frontier.

European nations and the United States have been warning Ankara to avoid a major new deployment in northern Iraq saying this could contribute to instability in the area.