Turkey's Prime Minister Heads to U.S.; Expresses Concern Over Iraq
Turkey’s Prime Minister, Bulent Ecevit's trip to the United States is intended to reaffirm the Turkish strong support for the U.S. anti-terror campaign, but also seeks U.S. financial help for the peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan. Ecevit leaves for Washington on Monday for a 5-day visit.
Turkey, a close strategic U.S. ally, was the first Islamic country to uphold the war declared on Afghanistan. However, the country is still recovering from an economic crisis, therefore it will ask for U.S. funding if it is to take over the leadership of the Afghan peacekeeping mission. Turkey has mentioned it is sending 261 personnel and as many as 500 soldiers should it take over the command from Britain, according to AP.
"Support for our defense expenditure in that region ... will be much appreciated," Ecevit told AP.
Ecevit, accompanied by a team of businessmen, will seek trade privileges for Turkey similar to those the United States grants allies such as Jordan and Israel.
Turkey will try to gain relief for the more than $5 billion Turkish military debts and continued support for its request for an estimated $10 billion in additional International Monetary Fund assistance.
Washington has already backed some $19 billion of IMF loans for Ankara to support a series of market-oriented reforms.
In addition, Turkey has strong reservation about the possible anti-terrorism campaign expanding to neighboring Iraq. Ecevit wishes to point this out when he meets President Bush on Wednesday.
Turkey fears that a renewed action against Baghdad could break up the country, create a separate Kurdish state and lead to a blow up of its own 15-year old war against Kurdish rebels seeking autonomy from Turkey. Turkey is also concerned about the effects of a new war on its current troubled economy.
Although the Washington administration has said it has not made any final decisions regarding Iraq, U.S. officials emphasize that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is maintaining secret programs to build weapons of mass destruction.
Ecevit opposed military strikes on Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War and maintained good relations with the Iraqi ruler. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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