Iraq Under Fire: Ankara warns Baghdad against opposing UN: Turkey stiffens resolve

Click to follow
The Independent Online
ISTANBUL - Turkey issued a stern warning to Baghdad yesterday, broadcasting statements that left little doubt that Ankara might soon allow the allies to unleash their firepower on northern Iraq from Turkey's Incirlik base.

In some ways, Turkey is only recognising what has already become a reality. US warplanes attacked Iraqi radar sites in northern Iraq yesterday after British Jaguar and US F-16 aircraft drew Iraqi anti-aircraft fire.

It was the second series of clashes in two days in the allied no-fly zone north of the 36th parallel, patrolled by warplanes based at Incirlik, near the southern Turkish city of Adana. All aircraft returned safely to base.

Turkey said the clashes were 'in legitimate self-defence', echoing the stiffening resolve of a country whose Prime Minister, Suleyman Demirel, had previously seemed at odds with allied hawkishness against Iraq.

Mr Demirel received the ambassadors of the United States, Britain and France for an extraordinary round of talks yesterday in which diplomatic hints left little doubt that the question was raised of using the base for pre-emptive strikes. Afterwards, Mr Demirel called in his chief of general staff.

'The missiles south of the 32nd parallel have been attacked. Now there are missiles north of the 36th parallel. They are causing great worry,' Mr Demirel told Turkish media. 'But there is no need to panic. It will become clear in the coming days whether this will turn into a crisis.'

After Mr Demirel met the allied ambassadors, the Deputy Prime Minister, Erdal Inonu, went on to call the Iraqi ambassador in to tell him of Turkey's concerns. Ankara has consistently warned Baghdad of the grave risks it runs of fresh allied attacks.

On Sunday, Mr Demirel warned Baghdad not to oppose the United Nations. The Turkish Foreign Minister, Hikmet Cetin, said he did not rule out the possibility that pre-emptive strikes would be carried out in northern Iraq as in the south.

The allied 'Hammer Force' of about 80 warplanes, tankers and Awacs are part of the 'Provide Comfort II' mission to deter President Saddam Hussein from any new attack on the 3.5 million Kurds of northern Iraq.

At least eight British Jaguars are part of the US, British, French and Turkish force. A statement from Incirlik said the Jaguars reported anti-aircraft fire from an Iraqi position south of Mosul yesterday. Two US F-4 Phantoms then fired one Harm missile each at an interval of 15 minutes at air defence radar sites 10 miles south of Mosul. Thirty-five minutes later, two US F-16 planes dropped four cluster bombs on the Bashiqah airfield 20 miles north- east of Mosul 'after receiving fire', the statement added.

Anti-aircraft fire was also aimed at allied aircraft on patrol in the north on Sunday. US planes fired a missile at an air defence installation and shot down an Iraqi MiG, the second to be shot down since the crisis flared up on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, UN winter aid convoys of between 50 and 100 trucks a day have continued to flow through to the Kurds of the north, now in the grip of winter snow.

Comments