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US Troops to Control Oil Rich Kirkuk - 2003-04-10

The White House says U.S. troops will control the Iraqi city of Kirkuk, following Turkish concerns that ethnic Kurds might use the city to push for wider Kurdish independence.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says the Bush administration has been in contact with Turkish officials to clear up questions over who will take charge of the oil-rich city.

"We understand their concerns and Kirkuk, which is the city that is involved here, will be under American control," he said.

Mr. Fleischer says U.S. troops will take charge of the city, which fell Thursday, to a Kurdish-led, U.S. backed offensive. He says the Bush administration has also reached agreement with Turkey to base a small number of Turkish observers there.

Turkey fears Kurdish control would encourage broader separatist movements among ethnic Kurds across the border in southern Turkey. Ankara is again warning that any Kurdish attempt to permanently control Kirkuk would be unacceptable.

Since the start of this war, the Bush administration has tried to sooth Turkish concerns about its alliance with Kurds in northern Iraq, who have been largely autonomous since the 1991 Gulf War and the start of a no-fly zone enforced by U.S. air power.