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Powell to Arrive in Turkey Tuesday - 2001-12-03


Secretary of State Colin Powell, is scheduled to arrive Tuesday in Ankara on the second leg of a week-long tour that will take him to several European and Eurasian capitals.

The trip marks Mr. Powell's first visit to Turkey, a key NATO ally, since he became secretary of state, and he is expected to brief Turkish leaders on the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan. Last month, Turkey became the first predominantly Muslim nation to commit troops to the war and U.S. war planes headed for Taleban targets have been re-fueling at the Incirlik base in southern Turkey.

But Afghanistan is not the only subject to be discussed. Western diplomats say Mr. Powell is likely to press Turkish leaders for their cooperation in reaching a speedy settlement on the divided island of Cyprus.

The secretary of state's Ankara visit will coincide with the resumption of face-to-face talks between Greek Cypriot leader Glafkos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash on the so called Green Line dividing the Cypriot capital, Nicosia.

But analysts say the most sensitive issue likely to be raised by Mr. Powell is that of Iraq. There has been mounting speculation in recent weeks that Iraq may be the next U.S. target in the war against terrorism. Turkey, for domestic reasons, has long been opposed to plans to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Ankara is concerned that a change in government in Iraq could lead to the dismemberment of its southern neighbor and the establishment of an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq. Such a development, Turkey fears, would lead its own restive Kurdish population to also demand independence.

But analysts say Turkey may be shifting its position on Iraq. Turkish Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu recently said that while his government is opposed to military action against Iraq, what he termed new conditions could lead Turkey to re-evaluate its position.

Signs of that re-evaluation came last week when the Iraqi ambassador to Ankara, Farouq al-Hijazi was quietly asked to leave before completing his term in Ankara. Mr. Hijazi is widely believed to have links with the al-Qaida network headed by Osama bin Laden, the man accused of September's terrorist attacks in the United States.