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Turkey Refuses to Negotiate With Islamic Militants - 2004-06-27

Turkey on Sunday rejected demands of Islamic militants who are threatening to behead three Turks they kidnapped in Iraq during a visit by President Bush. Turkey's Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul said his government would not negotiate with terrorists.

Mr. Gonul told a private Turkish news channel Sunday that Turkey "does not succumb to pressure from terrorists."

Followers of Islamic militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi announced Saturday, just hours after President Bush's arrival in the Turkish capital Ankara, they had kidnapped three Turkish workers.

In a videotape released to Qatar's Al-Jazeera news channel, they threatened to behead them after 72 hours unless Turkish companies stop doing business with American forces in Iraq. They also called for protests in Turkey against Mr. Bush's visit.

The president met with Turkish leaders in Ankara who reportedly raised the hostage issue with him. Secretary of State Colin Powell told the CNN news channel that the United States was doing its best to help locate the hostages. "We hope it will be able to rescue them but it's a dangerous situation," he said.

The president flew to Istanbul later in the day to attend a two-day NATO summit, which is expected to focus on Iraq and Afghanistan.

A Turkish foreign ministry spokesman said efforts were under way to establish the identities of the three men who shown on al- Jazeera holding up their passports as they crouched before two masked militants.

In a related development at least 25,000 people protested in demonstrations in Istanbul against President Bush. An overwhelming majority of Turks oppose the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Demonstrators bore placards that read "Bush go home"