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Leaders of Prominent Iraqi Tribe Meet With Turkish Officials - 2003-08-27

Leaders of a prominent Iraqi tribe met with Turkish officials in Ankara Wednesday, to discuss the possible deployment of thousands of Turkish troops in Iraq. Members of the Ubeydi Arab tribe say they would welcome Turkish troops in their region.

Speaking to reporters after meeting with Turkish foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, leaders of the Muslim tribe said they believed the deployment of Turkish troops in Iraq would help restore stability in their country.

Wednesday's meeting is in line with Turkish efforts to gauge Iraqi public opinion ahead of a decision on whether to dispatch as many as 10,000 Turkish troops to help the coalition forces police Iraq. Reaction has been mixed so far.

In Fallujah, a Sunni stronghold lying 60 kilometers west of Baghdad, the local governor said Tuesday that residents were opposed to any Turkish deployment. Governor Taha Badiwi threatened to unleash hell, as he put, if Turkish forces came to Fallujah, the center of die-hard loyalists of Saddam Hussein's deposed regime.

Turkey's government wants to send troops to Iraq in a bid to mend ties with the United States. Relations between the two NATO allies have cooled somewhat since the Turkish Parliament voted in March not to allow U.S. troops to use Turkey as a staging ground for a second, Northern Front, against Saddam Hussein's forces.

The Turkish government believes sending troops to Iraq to reinforce the U.S.-led coalition forces would allow it to play a role in shaping the future of Iraq.

But recent opinion polls indicate a majority of Turks is against sending forces to Iraq. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has said that the parliament where his Justice and Development Party enjoys an absolute majority will have to authorize the move. The parliament is set to reconvene in early October.