Turkish troops will guard Iraq's toughest areas.

Thousands of Turkish troops destined for peacekeeping duties in Iraq are expected to be deployed in some of the areas where resistance has been most fierce against American forces.

Hoshyar Zubari, the Foreign Minister in the Iraqi Governing Council, said that the council would accept relunctantly the arrival of the Turkish force. He added that the Turks were earmarked for service in Fallujah, Ramadi and northern Baghdad, where scores of Americans and Iraqis have been killed over the past six months in bitter clashes.

The Turkish parliament has approved sending up to 10,000 troops to Iraq to help the US-led coalition to restore security. The decision was hailed as a victory in Washington, which wants to attract Muslim forces to serve alongside its overstretched troops.

The move was immediately denounced in Baghdad by the governing council, which feared that the arrival of troops from the former colonial power would inflame anti-Turkish sentiment, in particular in the Kurdish north.

Abdullah Gul, the Turkish Foreign Minister, accused members of the governing council yesterday of using the Turkish deployment to score domestic political points.

"Some members of the council have in the past few days used Turkey to play politics. We feel uncomfortable about this and have relayed our feelings very clearly to the American side," Mr Gul said.

Mr Zubari, who is a Kurd, said that the council was resigned to the fact that the Turks would be coming. "We know our limitations," he said. "We know that the coalition is responsible for security in Iraq. We understand that if American GIs are being killed and a Nato member offers to send troops, they will be accepted."

Nevertheless, he insisted that the deployment could not take place without two preconditions being met. First, the Turkish forces must not operate in or near the Kurdish areas, in particular the disputed, oil-rich city of Kirkuk. Secondly, the Turks should not be allowed to control military supply routes through northern Iraq, which he feared could be transformed into a permanent Turkish military presence in the region.

"This is critical. Military logic dictates that they will have supply lines to their troops in Iraq. But the coalition must have full control of this corridor. Otherwise the one safe and peaceful area of Iraq could turn explosive," he said.

He predicted that the arrival of the Turks would not solve Iraq's security needs and insisted that Iraqis remained opposed to having troops from any of their neighbours deployed in the country. "Our position from the start has been that we opposed any troops from neighbouring countries serving in Iraq. We have had problems with all of them at one time or another. They each have their own agenda here," he said.

Mr Zubari, 50, a former Kurdish peshmerga fighter and leader in the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), who attended Essex University, said that Iraq's security would be improved if the US-led coalition drafted in thousands of trained Kurdish and Shia Muslim fighters to act as a paramilitary force.

He also advocated reintroducing the death penalty to Iraq as a means of deterring former members of Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime from attacking coalition forces.

"We know that those organising the attacks operate in the knowledge that at worst they will end up in prison and will probably be freed," he said.

Mr Zubari has been travelling the world establishing the fledgeling Iraqi council's legitimacy. He took up Iraq's seat at the Arab League, the United Nations and other international bodies. He will represent Iraq at the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in Kuala Lumpur before heading to Madrid for a donors' conference at the end of the month. The Iraqis are hoping to attract $5 billion (3 billion) in donations, in addition to the $20 billion pledged by the United States.

When he returns to Baghdad, Mr Zubari will try to re-establish an Iraqi diplomatic corps and reopen missions abroad. Already the Foreign Ministry is running a skeleton service in two buildings next to the war-torn remains of Saddam's ministry building.

Mr Zubari said that rebuilding a foreign service would not be easy. Earlier this week a bomb exploded just outside his office in Baghdad.

"It looks like an inside job. They thought I was coming back to Baghdad and set it off when I should have been in my office," he said.

[Source: By Richard Beeston, Diplomatic Editor, The Times, London. 11Oct03]

War in Iraq

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