23 March 2003
Iraq 'conflict may spread to Turkey'
MOSCOW: The US-led war in Iraq could spread to Turkey if Ankara deploys troops inside Kurdish-held northern Iraq, a top Russian official warned yesterday.
"The fire of war could spread to Turkish territory," said Dmitry Rogozin, head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of parliament, or State Duma.
"This war resembles a Russian doll, with one doll inside another. One war started and another is building inside," Interfax news agency quoted Rogozin as saying.
British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said yesterday that Turkish forces had entered northern Iraq.
US opposition to the deployment of Turkish forces inside northern Iraq held up talks between Washington and Ankara on opening up Turkish air space to US war planes so the latter could to attack Iraq from the north.
Meanwhile, Germany said it would withdraw its aircrews from Nato Awacs planes patrolling the airspace over Turkey if Ankara became a belligerent force in northern Iraq.
The step threatened to reopen a damaging row in the 19-nation Nato alliance that flared up last month after Germany, Belgium and France refused to bolster Turkey's defences.
Turkey's armed forces denied they had sent extra forces into northern Iraq overnight. Military sources earlier said Turkey sent in a force of commandos and Iraqi Kurds vowed to repel any Turkish incursion into their northern areas.
Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, speaking after an emergency meeting with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Defence Minister Peter Struck, said Berlin would not accept any change in the purely defensive nature of Awacs surveillance missions in Turkey, reflecting his government's firm anti-war stance.
Kurdish leaders in Turkey issued fierce warnings to Ankara against any military intervention in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq.
Such a move would lead to "uncontrolled clashes between the population and the Turkish army," said Hoshyar Zebari, a top official of the Kurdistan Democratic Party.
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