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U.S. Welcomes Turkish Offers of Troops for Iraq

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8, 2003 – The United States welcomes Turkey's decision to send troops to Iraq, State Department officials said Oct. 7.

The Turkish parliament voted 358 to 183 to participate in stability operations in Iraq. The Grand National Assembly action clears the way for Turkish troops to aid coalition forces in Iraq, or to aid in economic and humanitarian ways in the country.

"The United States believes that Turkish troops would contribute stability in Iraq, and we'll be consulting closely with the Turkish government over the details," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said at a press conference.

U.S. Central Command officials in Tampa said U.S. and Turkish officials will consult over where Turkish troops will be based and when they will be available. CENTCOM officials said they stand by to implement any decisions made by the two governments.

How many troops Turkey will dispatch has yet to be decided, though the number most often mentioned in the press is 10,000. U.S. officials said it is premature to speculate on the number.

The Turkish decision is a turnaround from February and March, when the Grand National Assembly refused permission for the United States to open a northern front against Saddam Hussein's regime using Turkish territory.

Although 98 percent Muslim, Turkey is a secular state. The Turkish military has a great deal of experience in peacekeeping, having recently commanded the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and participated in peacekeeping efforts in the Balkans. Turkey is a NATO ally and has experience in working with American and British forces.

Turkey has a problem with Kurdish rebel groups. Kurds also make up about 20 percent of the population of Iraq.

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