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Tuesday, 1 January, 2002, 15:36 GMT
Turkish worries over Iraq attack deepen
By Tabitha Morgan in Istanbul

As the traditional New Year celebrations in Turkey get under way, concern is growing over the possibility of American military intervention in neighbouring Iraq.

Turkey fears that political instability in northern Iraq could have serious effects on its own national security.

Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit is expected to raise Turkish concerns when he visits Washington in January.

Turkish flag
Turkey is a key US ally in the region
Ankara fears that military strikes against Iraq could encourage moves towards Kurdish statehood in the north of the country, and that this in turn would boost the separatist aspirations of Turkey's Kurds.

Turkish military chief General Huseyin Kivrikoglu said earlier this week that the country would be faced by what he called great adversity should Washington choose to take on Saddam Hussein, adding that if this happened, an independent Kurdish state would definitely be on the agenda.

Turks also fear the economic fallout of any campaign against Iraq, recalling that since 1990, their country has lost up to $30bn in revenue as a result of trade sanctions imposed on Baghdad.

Turkey's continuing economic crisis - with inflation running at almost 70% - has already dampened this year's festive spirit.

All these concerns will be high on the agenda when Mr Ecevit goes to Washington in January.

Although Turkey opposes strikes against Iraq, Ankara is also keen that as a loyal Nato member, it should continue to give its support to America's broader anti-terrorist campaign.

See also:

18 Dec 01 | Middle East
US builds support against Iraq
12 Dec 01 | Business
Turkey to drill for oil in Iraq
22 Sep 01 | Europe
Turkey opens airspace to US
17 Sep 01 | Business
Turkey rattled by conflict fears
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