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Turkey Unapologetic About Refusing to Aid U.S. in War

May 08, 2003|From Associated Press

ISTANBUL — Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday rejected the idea that Turkey erred by not opening its territory to the U.S. military during the Iraq war.

"Turkey, from the very beginning, never made any mistakes, and has taken all the necessary steps in all sincerity," Erdogan told reporters.

In an interview broadcast Tuesday on CNN-Turk, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz criticized Turkey for its refusal to allow the United States to put troops in the country or use its military bases during the war.

"Let's have a Turkey that steps up and says: 'We made a mistake. We should have known how bad things were in Iraq, but we know now. Let's figure out how we can be as helpful as possible to the Americans,' " Wolfowitz said. "I'd like to see a different sort of attitude than I have yet detected."

Turkey feared that the war would derail its frail economic recovery and destabilize the region.

The Turks did allow the United States to use their airspace after the war began.

Wolfowitz also called for the predominantly Muslim nation to follow Washington's line in its relations with neighboring Iran and Syria.

Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul recently visited Syria, and Iranian First Vice President Mohammed Reza Aref paid a visit to Turkey, stoking concerns that the Turkish government, formed by a party with roots in political Islam, is moving away from its U.S. ties.

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