Turks Protest Possible Iraqi War

From Times Wire Services

Thousands of Turks protested Sunday against a possible war against Iraq as the top U.S. general arrived to push for access to Turkish bases in the event of a conflict.

Police in Istanbul used tear gas and batons to break up a crowd of about 250 demonstrators; 22 people were detained. The city is a stronghold of Turkey's new conservative government, which is pushing hard for a peaceful end to a standoff between the U.S. and Iraq over alleged weapons of mass destruction.

About 2,000 protesters gathered in a park in Ankara, the capital, and chanted "No to war!" and "We will not be America's soldiers!"

"The government should not allow this dirty war to take place," Mehmet Bekaroglu, a former legislator, told the crowd. "It should listen to the people, because the people are opposed to war."

The U.S. is pressuring Turkey, the only Muslim-majority member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, to agree to let it deploy troops here as it did during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Turkey has delayed its response, however, with polls showing that 80% of the population opposing another conflict.

On Sunday, U.S. Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, flew into the Incirlik air base, now used by American planes to patrol a "no-fly" zone over northern Iraq.

Myers then went to Ankara, where he is to meet with Turkey's army chief, Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, and Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul today.

Turkey's government fears that a war with Iraq could damage Turkey's economy, hurt relations with neighbors and undermine the public support it gained in November polls.

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