Ankara/Baghdad, Oct. 7 (Reuters): Turkey’s parliament voted today to send troops to Iraq at the request of its US occupiers, but members of Iraq’s governing council criticised the plan.
The US wants other countries to shoulder some of the financial and military burden resulting from the invasion that toppled President Saddam Hussein in April. But representatives of several parties on the US-appointed governing council said its members had all agreed to reject the presence of any troops from neighbours, including Turkey.
“The governing council’s stand is against the presence of troops from neighbouring countries without exception, and Turkey is one of these countries,” said Nabeil al-Moussawi of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), whose head Ahmad Chalabi is a leading councillor.
Council head Iyad Allawi later said no formal decision had been taken and councillors would meet Iraq’s US governor Paul Bremer tomorrow to discuss the issue.
“We have concerns about the deployment, it is true, but we understand the (US-led) coalition decision to have additional troop contributions,” Allawi said.
US difficulties in Iraq were underlined by two bombs near Baghdad which killed three Americans as well as an Iraqi interpreter in separate incidents last night.
Ankara’s parliament voted overwhelmingly to approve deploying soldiers without specifying how many. The ruling party said it still needed to iron out conditions on any deployment, which would be the first in Iraq by a mainly Muslim nation.
Turkish officials have spoken in the past of sending up to 10,000 soldiers, which would be the largest contingent in the country after US and British forces.
With international disputes over the war still raw, few states, even US allies in Nato, are willing to contribute troops while the US insists on keeping control. Turkey’s decision might help to redeem it in US eyes — it upset Washington’s war plans by refusing to let US forces use bases there to launch attacks when the campaign began in March.
But Turkish troops could face opposition from Iraqis, particularly Kurds suspicious of Ankara’s motives after years of its military conflict with Turkish Kurdish separatist rebels in the northern border zone.
“I don’t want Turkish troops coming to Iraq. They will be attacked when they pass through the north,” Kurdish taxi driver Saddam Younis, 27, said in Mosul. Turkey has Nato’s second biggest army after the US and its forces would probably be deployed in the Arab, Sunni-dominated central region, not the Kurdish north.
The central region has been the scene of the fiercest resistance to the occupation.In a further sign of the instability even at the heart of the occupied Iraqi capital, a blast hit the foreign ministry compound, followed by a short exchange of gunfire nearby. The US military said there were no casualties.
In all, 91 American troops have been killed in action since President George W. Bush declared major combat over on May 1.
The White House today ruled out three senior aides as possible sources for a leak disclosing the name of an undercover CIA operative and President George W. Bush said the case may never be resolved.
“I have no idea whether we’ll find out who the leaker is,” Bush said after he met his Cabinet. “I’d like to. I want to know the truth.”