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Iraq a Likely Discussion Topic During Wolfowitz Trip

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 12, 2002 – The topic of Iraq is likely to come up during Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz's trip Sunday to Turkey and Afghanistan, a senior DoD official said here today.

Wolfowitz is slated to depart Washington this weekend and arrive Sunday in Istanbul, Turkey. He'll later head to Kabul and Bagram, Afghanistan, the official noted at a Pentagon background briefing with the press.

Questioned about possible talks in Turkey about Iraq, the senior DoD official said it's "hard to see how one would avoid the subject. Turkey borders Iraq. We're going to be talking about regional security, so one can't really discuss that subject without discussing Iraq."

U.S. government officials have accused Iraq of supporting terrorists and developing weapons of mass destruction. Although President Bush has not approved any war plans against Iraq, the senior official said, he has stated U.S. foreign policy calls for regime change in Iraq.

Consultations would likely include an opportunity for Turkish officials to relate their opinions on Iraq, the official noted. In addition to being Iraq's neighbor, Turkey has allowed the coalition to use Adana Air Base to mount Operation Northern Watch patrols since they began.

The Turks are important allies and have important insights to impart, he continued. "We value Turkey's views," he said. "I'm sure that we will benefit from getting the Turkish perspective."

Leaving Istanbul, Wolfowitz will travel to Kabul for meetings with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and other senior officials. The docket includes discussions on developments in the war on terrorism in the region, the DoD official said.

He noted Wolfowitz would also visit U.S. troops at Bagram Air Base during his stay. The deputy secretary is then scheduled to fly back to Ankara, Turkey, for more talks with Turkish government officials, he said.

The trip to Turkey has been planned for months and been postponed at least twice, the official said.

Turkey is a NATO member and a secular democracy. It recently assumed leadership of the international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan from the British, the DoD official noted. Although it has also been experiencing some turbulence in its governmental cabinet, Turkish officials advise that now is a good time for Wolfowitz to proceed on his trip, the official said.

The deputy secretary is scheduled to return to Washington July 18.

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