Q&A with Sun reporter in Turkey

SunSpot Staff

JAMIE COSTELLO: Well, at first we weren't getting any cooperation from theTurks but now that is all changing.

JOANN BAUER: It is. Sun foreign correspondent Doug Birch joins us now. Heis on the phone and he is in Turkey. Doug, what are the latestdevelopments there this morning?

DOUGLAS BIRCH: Well, this morning, Turkey's top general said that Turkey wouldnot move massive amounts of troops and armor into northern Iraq withoutconsulting with the United States. Which is very good news because theTurks have been threatening to do that for months now. And that could havestarted another war between two U.S. allies, the Kurds who live in northernIraq and the Turks on this side of the border.

JB: Well, Doug, I have a question, because there have been reports here inthe states that in fact Turkish troops have moved into northern Iraq. Isthat not the case?

DB: Well, there are already about anywhere from 1,500 to 20,000Turkish troops, depending on who you believe, in northern Iraq at thispoint. They have been there since around the 1990s. They set up thispresence, which is not recognized officially by other nations. What theyhave threatened in the past few months, though, is to send thousands moretroops in again, with heavy armor. Up until this point, they haven't beenheavily armed. The purpose of the move would be to discourage the Kurdsfrom setting up an independent state.

JC: Doug, have you seen any U.S. presence in Turkey?

DB: Yes, there was some U.S. presence here. The U.S. Army Corps ofEngineers was in this area setting up supply depots. They were going toturn this area I'm in now -- I'm near the border, with Iraq -- the road outin front of my hotel here was going to be a main supply corridor for U.S.troops in northern Iraq. But the Turks decided to permit only U.S. overflythrough Turkish territory, not to permit anything else, not to permit thebasing of U.S. troops here, not to permit the re-supplying of U.S. troopsthrough Turkish territory. It's a begrudging cooperation on the part ofthe Turkish government with the U.S. forces, but it's much, much less thanWashington wanted.

JB: Let's talk a little bit this morning, Doug, about Turkey, because we'veseen just howling winds and rain and sandstorms throughout Iraq. Are youguys getting any of that up where you are?

DB: No, up north, this is mountainous country. I'm at the banks of theTigris River, which flows south several hundred miles into Baghdad. Thisland is a different kind of landscape, it's not desert, it's fertile plains.The weather has been cool, it's been cloudy and rainy and overcast andcool, but there isn't enough sand here to blow around so we haven't had aproblem with that.

JC: All right. Doug Birch, thank you very much for joining us.

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