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Powell Makes Accord with Turks & Kurds

Powell Makes Accord with Turks & Kurds

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- With Turkey anxious about military movements by Iraqi Kurds, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday he has assured Turkish officials that the fighters will pull back from the major oil center of Kirkuk.

Almost immediately, U.S. airborne and special forces contingents moved into Kirkuk. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, "It's the firm U.S. position that no group should control Iraqi cities and oil fields."

Powell told The Associated Press that in a telephone call to Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul he also had concluded an agreement designed to reduce any likelihood of Turkey moving military forces into northern Iraq.

Powell and Gul decided on the outline of the accord during talks in Ankara last week. "We do not see any armed groups controlling territories, areas or resources in northern Iraq, and any moving in," Boucher said.

"The United States military will make sure that's the case," the spokesman said.

Powell said he agreed with Gul that Turkey could send a small group of monitors into Kirkuk, but said he told the foreign minister the United States would take care of having the Kurds pull back.

Powell last week acknowledged Turkey's anxiety over the Kurdish situation and set up a three-way "early warning" system that includes Kurdish leaders along with U.S. and Turkish officials. The goal is to avert a blowup in northern Iraq, where there is a large Kurdish population.

Turkey, with its own sizable Kurdish minority, is concerned that Iraqi Kurds would either declare an independent state, emboldening Turkey's Kurds, or that Kurdish refugees would flee into Turkey as they did in the Gulf War in 1991.

But Powell said Thursday he thought the new arrangement would keep the situation in check. He described the Turkish troops that have moved into Kirkuk as a small "military liaison."

Powell also said he was confident that Turkish officials had a complete understanding of the agreement.

Turkey has said repeatedly it would not accept Iraqi Kurdish control of Kirkuk.

In Ankara, Gul said Powell had made the offer to permit Turkey to send military observers to Kirkuk to make sure that Iraqi Kurdish fighters withdraw from the city.

"We've accepted this," Gul said.

Turkey has had several thousand troops in northern Iraq for the past few years fighting Turkish Kurdish rebels who have bases in northern Iraq not far from the Turkish border.

Gul said Powell assured Turkey that Iraqi Kurds would not keep control of Kirkuk.

At the White House, presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer confirmed that the United States had authorized Turkey to send a "small number" of observers into Iraq. He said he did not know how many observers would be involved and was vague about what they might do. "They will observe what is observable," he said.

As for Kirkuk, Fleischer said "the city will be under American control." He did not indicate how long that control might last.

Spokesman Boucher confirmed, meanwhile, that the State Department had audited the Iraqi National Congress to ensure that "it was meeting financial standards" to receive U.S. assistance.

The anti-Saddam Hussein coalition group, which is headed by Ahmed Chalabi, has received $31 million since 1999.

"Deficiencies were found, remedies were decided, additional controls were put in place," Boucher said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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