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The Turkish Trap.

In recent weeks, US troops and CIA agents in northern Iraq caught Turkish Army special forces infiltrating the region and smuggling arms for the Turkmen communities in the oil-rich cities of Kirkuk and Mosul. Time magazine on April 18 quoted US military sources as saying that, earlier in the month, they had intercepted a unit of Turkish commandos attached to a humanitarian aid convoy in a bid to reach Kirkuk. Time said the mission of the commandos - caught with an arsenal of automatic rifles and grenades - was to increase tension between the Turkmen and Kurdish communities in Kirkuk to justify a Turkish military intervention in northern Iraq.

On April 27, Turkey's Islamist Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said these were security officials and not special forces, and were accompanying aid convoys crossing into Iraq from Turkey. He also denied they had a large cache of weapons with them. The US forces in northern Iraq later said that the Islamist government in Ankara was either lying - and they were also shocked to learn the Sunni Islamists "could be such liars as the Shiite Islamists" - or duped by the Turkish military whose Kemalist ideologues are still bent on bringing about a Kemalist establishment to replace the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who angered Kemalist President Sezer on April 21 by saying he favoured a US-style presidential system for Turkey.

Erdogan - who was recently described as a "na?ve upstart" by Islamist leader and his former party boss Necmettin Erbakan - said such a system was necessary to combat widespread nepotism in Turkey. Generally mention of "nepotism and corruption" tend to refer to practices associated with the Kemalist system, to which military-backed President Sezer belongs.

In a televised interview, Erdogan said: "A presidential or semi-presidential system is my desire in politics... The ideal for me is the American model. Naturally, a consensus is needed for that between all institutions in the country and the people; otherwise such a transition will not be healthy. But if we manage to achieve this, I believe Turkey will make a significant leap forward". The prime minister added that a presidential system would help combat cronyism and corruption by ensuring a complete separation of government and the legislature".
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Publication:APS Diplomat News Service
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:7TURK
Date:May 5, 2003
Words:368
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