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 Saturday, 4 January, 2003, 15:50 GMT
Turkey and Syria work for peace
Anti-war demonstration in Ankara
There is strong opposition in Turkey to a war
Turkey and Syria have agreed to work together to try to prevent a war against Iraq, Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul said.

He was speaking in Damascus after talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Asad at the start of a tour of Arab countries.

Mr Gul will also visit Egypt, Jordan and possibly Iran on what one official called a "tour for peace".

"We should make an all-out effort to reach a peaceful solution and to avert a looming war in the region," Mr Gul said on arrival in Damascus, where he was greeted by Syrian Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa Miro.

Turkey is considering whether or not to allow the United States to use its military facilities in the event of a campaign against Iraq.

Testing the water

The Turkish Government thinks there is still time to step back from war.

The president's spokesman said on Friday that peaceful and diplomatic methods had not yet been exhausted.

Abdullah Gul
Abdullah Gul: Putting diplomatic skills to the test
There is, however, more to Mr Gul's trip than a call for peace.

One of the prime minister's advisers talks about testing the water - finding out what Syria, Jordan and Egypt think about the prospect of war and, more particularly, what they think about Turkey's potential involvement.

The Turkish Government is aware of its isolation from other Muslim countries in the region, highlighted this week by joint exercises its military carried out with Israel and the US in the Mediterranean.

The government does not want to be seen to be used as what another senior adviser described as "Muslim cover" for America.

At the same time, it values its relationship with the US in particular, and the West in general.

Mr Gul will be looking for reassurance from the countries he visits, when explaining the difficult position in which Turkey now finds itself.

Inspections progressing

Meanwhile, UN officials have said they still need more information from Baghdad to support its insistence it has no weapons of mass destruction.

But on the ground, the inspections, now in their sixth week, are going smoothly.

Iraq says the UN experts have found nothing incriminating.

The inspectors are now extending their hunt, by setting up a regional office in the northern town of Mosul.

They have also visited several more sites, including a brewery north of Baghdad.

They have until 27 January the to report their findings to the Security Council.

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  The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"In both countries there's strong opposition to war"

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04 Jan 03 | Middle East
27 Dec 02 | Middle East
27 Dec 02 | Europe
04 Nov 02 | Business
04 Jan 03 | Middle East
04 Dec 02 | Middle East
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