Turkish Army Chief Fears Any US Strike On Iraq

ANKARA (Reuters)–Turkey would face “great adversity” if Washington targets Iraq next in its war on terror–encouraging a Kurdish state to take root over the border–the NATO ally’s top military chief was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

Turkey has staunchly supported the US military campaign in Afghanistan–but has opposed strikes on neighboring Iraq for Baghdad’s refusal to allow UN weapons inspectors to return.

“Our perspective is clear…If something happens (in Iraq) it won’t be limited to commercial or oil pipeline (problems) like in 1990,” the Anatolian news agency quoted Chief of General Staff Huseyin Kivrikoglu as telling reporters on Tuesday.

“For Turkey–a much greater adversity would be on the agenda. An independent Kurdish state would be on the agenda.”

US and British warplanes flying from a Turkish air base have patrolled a breakaway enclave in northern Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War–to protect Kurdish factions that run the region.

Parliament extended that mandate by six months on Tuesday.

Turkey’s army wields considerable influence behind the scenes and Kivrikoglu and other generals were due to meet with the government on Friday at the monthly National Security Council meeting.

Turkey–racked by its worst recession in decades–has said 11 years of UN sanctions on Iraq have cost it some $30 billion in lost trade.

The head of a leading business group Tusiad said on Wednesday action against Iraq would hamper Turkey’s IMF-backed economic recovery.

“In a time where Turkey needs to export–an operation like this would really unsettle Turkey from an economic standpoint,” said Tuncay Ozlihan. “From a political standpoint it would cause a very important imbalance.”

Turkish soldiers frequently cross the border with Iraq in pursuit of Turkish Kurd rebels who have waged a 17-year-long campaign for self-rule in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast.


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