Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Turkey to give troops go-ahead to enter northern Iraq

(Reuters) - Turkey will defy international pressure on Wednesday and grant its troops permission to enter northern Iraq to crush Kurdish separatist rebels based there. Turkey's prime minister has sought to play down expectations of an imminent attack, but the parliamentary vote will effectively give the army a free hand to act as and when it sees fit.
Washington, Ankara's NATO ally, says it understands Turkey's desire to tackle rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), but fears a major incursion would wreck stability in the most peaceful part of Iraq and potentially in the wider region. Turkey's stance has helped drive global oil prices to $88 a barrel, a new record, and has hit its lira currency as investors weigh the economic risks of any major military operation.
Parliamentary approval would create the legal basis for military action. By law, Turkey's parliament must approve the deployment of Turkish troops abroad. Parliament is expected to approve the request from Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's cabinet by a large majority after an open debate, starting at 1200 GMT. "Passage of this motion does not mean an immediate incursion will follow, but we will act at the right time and under the right conditions," Erdogan told his ruling AK Party on Tuesday.
"This is about self-defense," he said in televised remarks.
Iraqi Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi lobbied Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul in Ankara on Tuesday to refrain from military action and to seek a diplomatic solution. Erdogan is under public pressure to hit PKK camps in northern Iraq after a series of deadly rebel attacks on Turkish troops. Markets are closely following the incursion debate.
Turkish opposition parties strongly back the plan for military action, with only the small pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) expressing concern about the implications. Ankara blames the PKK, considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, for the deaths of more than 30,000 people since the group launched its armed struggle for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey in 1984.
Turkey conducted large military operations in northern Iraq against the PKK in the 1990s but failed to wipe out the rebels. Some analysts say that despite its tough rhetoric Turkey may limit itself to aerial bombardment of rebel targets and small forays across the border while avoiding a major incursion.

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