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Turkey-US Talks Stall Over Troop Deployment Demand


Turkey and the United States are bogged down in a fresh round of negotiations over the use of Turkish airspace by U.S. military aircraft flying into Iraq. This latest dispute comes only hours after Turkey's parliament approved the use of Turkish airspace by coalition aircraft.

Senior U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed that Turkey's refusal to open its airspace to U.S. aircraft stemmed from its demands that the United States approve the deployment of tens of thousands of Turkish troops in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq.

The United States has warned Ankara that an incursion by Turkey into northern Iraq could lead to so-called "friendly fire" incidents with U.S. forces.

Turkish and U.S. officials were continuing talks on the issue Friday. Turkey wants to establish a strong military presence in the Kurdish-controlled enclave primarily to prevent the Iraqi Kurds from declaring independence after the fall of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's regime.

Turkey fears that an independent Kurdish entity on its borders would fan separatist sentiment among its own estimated 12 million Kurds.

Turkey's parliament on Thursday approved a bill authorizing U.S. warplanes to use Turkish airspace in its war against Iraq. The parliament's resolution also allowed Turkish troops to cross into northern Iraq.

Iraqi Kurdish officials deny that a large number of Turkish troops have entered their enclave and have vowed to fight back should they do so.

The ongoing dispute over U.S. overflights is the latest in a series of differences that have plagued relations between Ankara and Washington in recent months.

The Bush administration was disappointed by the Turkish parliament's rebuttal earlier this month of a bill that would have enabled U.S. forces to use Turkey as a launch pad in the war against Iraq.