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Turkey to Decide on Troops for Iraq

October 07, 2003|From Associated Press

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey's government voted Monday to ask parliament to send soldiers to Iraq, a move that could ease the burden of U.S. operations there and help mend frayed relations with Washington.

If parliament agrees, Turkey would become the first major predominantly Muslim nation to contribute troops to the U.S.-led coalition. But many lawmakers reject the idea of sending troops after the ouster of Saddam Hussein -- particularly when they opposed the war that deposed him.

Hoping to win over critics, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan planned to address members of his party today.

The U.S. State Department welcomed the decision. "Turkey has an important role to play in stabilizing Iraq," said spokesman Richard Boucher. "We continue our discussions with Turkish authorities on the details of possible deployment, if parliament endorses the government's request."

Turkish Justice Minister Cemil Cicek would not disclose how many soldiers the government hoped to send, but officials have said the U.S. requested 10,000.

The U.S. also has sought soldiers from India, Pakistan and South Korea to bolster its 130,000 troops in Iraq. Turkey is NATO's only Muslim member, and Washington is keen to see troops from Muslim countries participate in Iraq.

Cicek said if troops are deployed they would stay up to one year.

Erdogan has favored contributing troops to repair ties with the United States, which have been strained since March, when parliament turned down a U.S. request to station 60,000 troops in Turkey to be used against Iraq.

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