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Barzani asks Arabs to oppose Turkish troops

A Kurdish member of the US-backed Iraqi Governing Council has called on the Arab League to oppose the deployment of Turkish troops to occupied Iraq.

Last Modified: 12 Oct 2003 13:15 GMT
KDP leader Masud Barzani says Ankara has its own agenda in Iraq

A Kurdish member of the US-backed Iraqi Governing Council has called on the Arab League to oppose the deployment of Turkish troops to occupied Iraq.

Masud Barzani, who also heads the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), held talks in Cairo on Sunday with Arab League chief Amr Musa.

"We have rejected the deployment of troops by Turkey and other countries in the region, and we have asked for Arab League support for this position," Barzani told reporters following his talks.

For his part, Musa said the 22-member League would support any decision made by the Iraqi Interim Governing Council over the deployment of Turkish troops or any other neighbouring countries.

The Arab League chief said he had received an "official message" from the Council about differences with the US occupying authority.

Arab foreign ministers will hold a meeting on Wednesday on the sidelines of the Islamic summit opening in Malaysia to discuss the Turkish troops issue, said Musa.

"The deployment of troops from Turkey or neighbouring countries would only increase tensions in Iraq and would provide protection for no one," said Barzani.

"Turkey has its own agenda and its intervention in Iraq will cause many problems," said the KDP leader.

Fear of interference

The Turkish parliament gave the green light on Tuesday for the deployment of Turkish troops to Iraq for a maximum of one year, sparking opposition from the Governing Council and Kurds.

"The deployment of troops from Turkey or neighbouring countries would only increase tensions in Iraq and would provide protection for no one"

Masud Barzani, member of the Iraqi Governing Council

The Council has rejected the Turkish proposal, expressing fears that peacekeepers from neighbouring countries could end up interfering in Iraq's internal affairs.

Turkey has long battled against its Kurdish minority, which is fighting for an independent homeland, and Kurds in northern Iraq fear that Turkish troops could turn on them.

Turkey became the first Muslim country to do so without requiring the US to first turn control over to the United Nations.

The move is a marked change of policy from earlier this year.

Washington has become agitated when about 1000 Turkish soldiers crossed the border in March, augmenting the several thousand-strong force Ankara maintains there to pursue Turkish Kurd guerrillas.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, said at the time: "We have special forces units connected to Kurdish forces in the north...and you can be certain that we have advised the Turkish government and the Turkish armed forces that it would be notably unhelpful if they went into the north in large numbers."

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