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Turkish, US Officials Discuss Troop Deployment in Iraq


U.S. and Turkish officials met in Ankara Thursday to discuss conditions under which thousands of Turkish troops might be deployed alongside U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq.

The talks, bringing together senior military officials and diplomats from the United States and Turkey, are centered on a number of conditions Turkey says it wants met in exchange for sending as many as 10,000 troops to help coalition forces police Iraq.

Among them are Turkish demands that Turkish troops be commanded by a Turkish general and that the U.S. disarm and drive out Turkish Kurds rebels in northern Iraq.

The talks follow an offer by the Turkish government to send troops to assist coalition forces in Iraq. The move is aimed at patching up relations with the United States, strained by the Turkish parliament's March 1 rejection of a bill authorizing U.S. troops to use Turkey as a launching pad for a second front against Iraq.

Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party says parliament would need to authorize any troop deployment. Recent opinion polls indicate that most Turks are opposed to sending Turkish forces to Iraq.

Analysts say the parliament where the governing party has an absolute majority is more likely to approve any such move if there is United Nations or NATO approval for the deployment of an international peacekeeping force in Iraq.

Some Iraqi groups are also opposed to the presence of Turkish troops in their country. Iraq's newly appointed foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, told the Qatar-based al-Jazeera Arabic language news channel Thursday that troops from Iraq's neighbors would add to instability. Mr. Zebari, an ethnic Kurd, pointed to past Turkish military intervention in Kurdish controlled northern Iraq as an example of the kinds of problems that he said would likely re-emerge if Turkish troops were to be deployed in great numbers in Iraq.

Many analysts say, however, that the United States is likely to overrule such objections if Turkey decides to contribute troops. The United States has made clear that those troops would be deployed outside Kurdish ruled areas of Iraq.