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TURKEY - Aug. 16 - Ankara Threatens To Cut Iraqi Diesel Imports.

A report in The FT, quoting Minister of State Tunca Toskay, says Ankara "is threatening to ban unofficial cross-border diesel fuel imports from Iraq, in a move designed to put pressure on an Iraqi Kurdish faction that it accuses of supporting anti-Turkish militants. Toskay said the cabinet planned to ban the imports, which are trucked from central Iraq through the area of northern Iraq controlled by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), from next month.

(Analysts say the dispute could be a complicating factor for the US, which needs the co-operation of both the Kurds and Ankara in its campaign to overthrow the Iraqi regime. Political sources in Ankara said the move was a result of the armed forces' discontent at the KDP's alleged support for anti-Turkish Kurdistan Workers' Party - PKK - militants operating out of northern Iraq. But according to Kurdish officials, the ban reflects Ankara's anxieties about a possible US attack on Iraq and suspicion of Kurdish intentions in a post-Saddam Hussein era. Ankara fears that a federal state in Iraq would encourage the yearnings for independence of its own Kurdish minority. More than 500 trucks have been carrying diesel fuel every day from Iraq to Turkey in recent years. The trade, worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year, is outside the UN-approved oil-for-aid programme, the exemption from sanctions on Iraq. But the UN and the US have turned a blind eye to the flow of diesel because it helps the Turkish economy and provides the only source of cash revenues to the Iraqi Kurds. Although the Baghdad regime receives the bulk of the income, the KDP, the largest of two Kurdish factions, levies taxes on the trade. The tensions between Ankara and the KDP have already significantly reduced the fuel trade over the past six months).

Hoshyar Zebari, a senior KDP official, said: "The Turks are paranoid about the prospect of regime change in Iraq and they cannot oppose it, but they believe we have established a viable self-rule entity and they see the possibility of the emergence of a Kurdish state. We're trying very hard to convince them that we can't afford to have a Kurdish state but they confuse the idea of independence with the idea of federalism". Ankara is believed to be most concerned about the future status of Kirkuk, the oil-rich city in northern Iraq that remains under the control of the Iraqi central government. Ankara fears that Kurdish control over Kirkuk in any future redrawing of boundaries would reinforce the capacity of the Kurds to declare an independent state. Two Turkish newspapers quoted Massoud Barzani, the head of the KDP, as telling a visiting delegation of Kurds that Kirkuk was historically and non-negotiably Kurdish. Such statements suffice, as one newspaper put it, to make Turks' hair stand on end.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:7TURK
Date:Aug 17, 2002
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