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US Welcomes Turkish Decision to Send Troops to Iraq - 2003-10-07

The United States is welcoming the decision of Turkey's parliament to authorize the dispatch of Turkish troops to Iraq, and U.S. officials say concerns about the deployment among members of the Iraqi Governing Council can be "worked out."

The Bush administration has been actively seeking a peacekeeping role in Iraq by Turkey, a major Muslim country and U.S. ally. And officials here say they believe a Turkish presence will contribute to Iraqi security despite vocal opposition by some members of the Iraqi Governing Council.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said U.S. officials will work with the council and hopefully "arrive at conclusions together" about the Turkish deployment. "We believe these things can be worked out, should be worked out, because our basic view is that Turkish troops can make a contribution to stability that's good for Iraq and the progress the Iraqi people want to make. So we'll be working on all these sorts of details to configure it in a way that contributes to stability and to make sure the Iraqis agree with us on that," he said.

A senior diplomat here, mindful of opposition to a Turkish presence by Iraqi Kurds, said the envisaged Turkish deployment would be in the central part of the country and not the mainly-Kurdish north.

The decision by the Turkish parliament was a welcome development for the Bush administration as it struggled to win U.N. Security Council approval for a resolution aimed at broadening international participation in Iraqi peacekeeping and reconstruction.

Spokesman Boucher said U.S. diplomats at the United Nations have received ideas from other council members -- some constructive and some less so on how the draft might be improved.

He said deliberations are now in a "pause" as U.S. officials examine where things stand. Under questioning, he said the withdrawal of the resolution is an option, if other council members cannot be persuaded to support a process of transition of power from the U.S.-led coalition to Iraqis that he said is well underway. "Iraqis are running education, they're running health services, they're running electricity. They're starting to run Iraq's foreign relations, they run the police. They're starting to run border patrols and other aspects of government. And this will be a continuing process, a progressive process, and it's expanding. That process of transfer is going to continue whether we get a resolution or not," he said.

The senior diplomat who spoke to reporters said the United States had already made some major changes in the draft to accommodate Security Council critics pressing for a swifter transition and bigger United Nations role in it.

But he said the Bush administration will not alter the "fundamental basis" of the resolution, including its insistence that Iraqis set the timetable for the writing of a constitution and elections.

There were similar comments at the United Nations from U.S. ambassador John Negroponte, who said while the administration's present intent is to press ahead with the resolution, council members should not expect any "radical departures" from the draft now before them.

The resolution would transform the U.S.-led security operation in Iraq into a U.N.-authorized multilateral force and expand the United Nations role in the political process, though U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan last week rejected broader participation unless Iraqi sovereignty is accelerated.