The Turkish military has warned Friday that a federal Iraqi
government divided along ethnic and religious lines would create
a "difficult" and "bloody" future for Turkey's southern neighbor.
In a rare news conference, a top Turkish general also accused
the United States of not taking effective action against Kurdish
separatist rebels based in northern Iraq.
Speaking to reporters in Ankara, General Ilker Basbug, the
second in command of the Turkish General Staff, said the
Turkish military believed that a federal structure in Iraq
and especially one based along ethnic lines would unleash
chaos in the region.
General Basbug was referring to stepped up efforts by the
Kurds of northern Iraq to establish their own semi-autonomous
state in Iraq which would preserve its own army and gain
control over the oil rich province of Kirkuk, that is populated
by Kurds, Arabs and Turcomens.
Turkey fears that the establishment of an independent Kurdish
entity in Iraq could refuel separatist sentiments among its
own 14 million or so ethnic Kurds and lead to the resumption
of an armed campaign by rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan
Workers Party, better known as the PKK.
The rebel group fought a 15 year long insurgency in Turkey's
predominantly Kurdish southeast, which it called off five
years ago following the capture of its leader, Abdullah Ocalan.
The group, which is on the State Department's list of terrorist
organizations then withdrew to Kurdish controlled northern
General Basbug said the United States had failed to deliver
on its pledges so far to disarm and evict the PKK from its
mountain bases in the Kurdish enclave. He added, that he
remained hopeful, nonetheless, that U.S. forces would take
action against the estimated 5,000 PKK fighters holed up
in mountain camps along Iraq's border with Iran.
Analysts say the general's remarks highlight continuing
differences between Turkey and the United States over Iraq.
Relations between the two NATO allies have been strained
ever since the Turkish parliament refused to allow thousands
of U.S. troops to use Turkish soil to attack Iraqi forces
from the north during their campaign to topple the former
Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein.
Many Turks believe that the United States now favors the
Iraqi Kurds over the Turks and is tacitly backing the Kurds'
attempts to form their own state. U.S. officials dismiss
such claims, saying they are firmly committed to the unity
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected
to voice Turkish concerns over Iraq when he meets with President
Bush at the end of January during his first official trip