Today: March 22, 2003 at 1:16:14 PST
Turkey Sends Troops to Iraqi Kurdish AreaBy SELCAN HACAOGLU
SILOPI, Turkey (AP) -
Turkey dispatched 1,000 troops into northern Iraq and pledged to send more to prevent Kurds from creating an independent state in the chaos of war in the region.
A detachment of commandoes in armored vehicles headed south on Friday near Cukurca, where the borders of Turkey, Iraq and Iran converge, a military official said.
Turkey already maintains several thousand soldiers backed by a few dozen tanks in northern Iraq to chase Turkish Kurdish guerrillas who cross the border and take refuge in northern Iraq. Turkey has frequently sent soldiers into northern Iraq to chase Kurdish rebels belonging to the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which fought a 15-year battle for autonomy from Turkey.
The military also is also shifting some 5,000 soldiers to the border region, the official said on customary condition of anonymity.
The Bush administration has said it opposes a move by Turkey into northern Iraq, fearing it would disrupt the U.S. campaign to oust Saddam Hussein. Iraqi Kurds - who like Turkey are U.S. allies - have threatened attacks on any invading Turkish forces.
"We don't see any need for any Turkish incursions into northern Iraq," Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday.
Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, however, insisted Turkey was determined to send in a large force.
Ankara fears the U.S.-led war could lead to Iraq's fragmentation, prompting Iraqi Kurds to declare independence. It wants to impose a presence in the north to prevent that step, which could encourage Turkey's Kurdish separatists.
After intense negotiations, Turkey agreed Friday to allow the U.S. to fly over its territory during the war.
Thousands of Turkish troops are also standing by about 4 miles away from the Iraqi border, near the town of Silopi.
Scores of Turkish tanks, artillery and armored personnel carriers are positioned near Silopi. The entire border area has been declared a military zone and is off limits to reporters.
Gul told reporters that Turkey's wants to preserve "Iraq's territorial integrity" and prevent refugees from crossing into its territory.
"Turkey has no designs whatsoever on Iraq's territory," he said.
Turkey says Turkish Kurdish rebels have benefited from the lack of authority in northern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War.
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