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Tuesday, 16 July, 2002, 14:02 GMT 15:02 UK
US woos Turkey over Iraq
Incirlik could be vital to any campaign against Iraq
US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz has concluded talks with Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, but won't reveal whether the two men discussed military action against Iraq.

When asked, Mr Wolfowitz would only say that the meeting covered a wide range of issues, including bilateral defence issues and regional issues.

Mr Wolfowitz also met Turkish military officials, and Iraq was believed to have been a major topic in the discussions.

Paul Wolfowitz
Wolfowitz: Well-known hawk on Iraq

Turkey, a key US ally in Nato and a base for US and British aircraft patrolling the air exclusion zone over northern Iraq, would be crucial to any major operation.

US officials insist that no decisions have yet been made on strategy.

But correspondents say that the US is a long way off convincing Turkey, currently in the clutches of a political crisis, that a military campaign in Iraq is something it should support.

Mr Wolfowitz's visit coincides with the political turmoil sparked by Mr Ecevit's prolonged illness.

The visit also comes as speculation continues to mount about US plans to topple Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, which US President George W Bush described as being part of an "axis of evil" in his controversial State of the Union address earlier this year.

Mr Wolfowitz repeated US warnings on Monday during a visit to Afghanistan that Washington was committed to action on Iraq - but it was not clear what form that action would take.

British concern

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has said Iraq was a "cheat" that must be called to account.

Speaking during a visit to China, he expressed concern about "Iraq's failure to meet its obligations on the United Nations Security Council resolutions".

He said that if Iraq allowed weapons inspectors free access to the country, it would a step towards a peaceful future for the country.

China has consistently opposed any military action against Baghdad.

Mr Straw also attacked North Korea for failing to meet its commitments under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

No Kurdish state

Mr Wolfowitz has already ruled out the prospect of Washington's support for the creation of an independent state for the Kurdish people of northern Iraq.

Such a state would destabilise the region and prove unacceptable to the US, he said.

Turkey, which has a substantial Kurdish minority of its own, was involved in a long war with separatist rebels in the 1980s and 1990s.

The US says Iraq is working to develop weapons of mass destruction, but this is hard to prove as United Nations weapons inspectors have not been in the country since December 1998.

Air action

American and British aircraft struck twice in Iraq over the weekend in attacks that Baghdad says left one civilian dead and six others injured.

A senior Pentagon official said coalition planes patrolling no-fly zones over Iraq had hit air defence facilities on Saturday, while on Sunday they destroyed a mobile radar used for a surface-to-air missile launch.

The no-fly zone in the north of Iraq is monitored by planes based at Incirlik in Turkey.

The zones were imposed by the US, Britain and France after the 1991 Gulf War, in what was described as a humanitarian effort to protect both the Kurds in the north and the Shi'a Muslims in the south.

The no-fly zones were not authorised by the UN and are not specifically sanctioned by any Security Council resolution. Iraq considers them a violation of its sovereignty.

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See also:

15 Jul 02 | Middle East
11 Jul 02 | Politics
16 Jul 02 | Media reports
05 Jul 02 | Americas
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