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Turkish Official Accuses US of Hypocrisy on Iraq - 2003-01-27

A senior Turkish official has accused the United States of hypocrisy in its policy on Iraq. The statement comes amid mounting public opposition in Turkey to a war against Iraq.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ertugurul Yalcinbayir said the United States is ready to attack a country that has already surrendered.

Mr. Yalcinbayir's remarks, some of the strongest directed against the United States by any Turkish official in recent months, came after a meeting with anti-war protesters in the capital, Ankara. Mr. Yalcinbayir suggested that the Bush administration has no legitimate reason to launch a war against Iraq.

Anti-war sentiment runs strong in this predominantly Muslim nation, which shares a 400-mile-long border with Iraq. The ruling Justice and Development Party, which has roots in political Islam, has balked at demands by the United States to allow the deployment of U.S. ground troops on Turkish soil. But it has also been leading efforts involving Arab nations and Iran to persuade the Iraqi leadership to cooperate with United Nations weapons inspectors.

According to Turkish officials, Washington is seeking to deploy as many as 80,000 troops in Turkey, who would be ready to cross into Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq to confront Iraqi government forces. Analysts say the dilemma facing NATO-member Turkey is how to strike a balance between public opposition to a war and its desire to maintain strong strategic and economic ties with the United States.

Even as Turkish leaders pursue diplomatic efforts to head off a conflict between Iraq and the United States, Turkish military officers have been negotiating with their U.S. counterparts on the size of a possible U.S. ground force that would be deployed in Turkey. According to Turkish media reports, preliminary agreement has been reached for the deployment some 20,000 U.S. troops. But under Turkish law, parliamentary approval is required for the basing of any foreign troops on Turkish soil, a point Turkish leaders continue to make in their talks with their U.S. counterparts.