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Monday, 30 September, 2002, 12:32 GMT 13:32 UK
Turkey's Iraq balancing act
Tariq Aziz
Turkey is publically against an attack on Iraq

Turkey's precarious diplomatic balancing act on the Iraq issue is being highlighted on Monday with separate visits from senior American officials and the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz.

Talks in Ankara with the US Assistant Secretary for European Affairs, Elizabeth Jones - which Turkish officials say have already begun - are expected to centre on what military facilities Turkey could provide its US ally in any possible attack on Iraq.

But later in the day, Turkey will also host Tariq Aziz who is expected to ask Ankara to resist US pressure.


Turkey knows that they can't stop America, so they are trying to get some sort of compensation

Ahmet Sevindik
SkyTurk news editor
Turkey finds itself caught between a US military ally it helped during the war to expel Iraq from Kuwait, and its neighbour and trading partner, Iraq.

Turkey is publicly against an attack on Iraq.

It says it lost billions of dollars in trade as a result of Operation Desert Storm and is worried that any new campaign could destroy its tourist industry again.

Open in new window : Who backs war?
Where key nations stand on Iraq

Turkey is also concerned about precipitating a break-up of Iraq with the possible creation of a Kurdish state in northern Iraq, which could link up with Kurdish areas in eastern Turkey.

But at the same time, Turkey is trying to squeeze the best possible deal out of what may be an inevitable attack.

"Turkey knows that they can't stop America, so they are trying to get some sort of compensation, at least in economic terms, and in political terms, they are trying to get guarantees against a possible Kurdish state," says Ahmet Sevindik, news editor of the Turkish TV channel SkyTurk.

Turkey's balancing act on foreign affairs - caught as the country is between the west and the Islamic world - is also reflected in its domestic politics.

Parliamentary elections are due in November, with fiery debates expected between Islamists and secular parties.

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The BBC's Andrew Burroughs
"It is the UN's first chance to see how serious Iraq is"

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