WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Colin Powell will travel to Turkey and Brussels, Belgium, for talks on the war with Iraq and postwar reconstruction of that country.
Powell said Monday it was the first of a number of trips he intends to take in the weeks and months ahead "about our hopes for Iraq in the future."
He told reporters he would tell Turkish leaders "it is unnecessary for them to consider any incursions in the region."
Powell said he was prepared to hear "their point of view and make sure we have a common understanding."
Powell intends to take up with Turkish leaders their concern about any potential for terror attacks from Iraq and the restraints the Bush administration has placed on Turkish military incursions inside northern Iraq, spokesman Richard Boucher said in announcing the sudden trip.
In Brussels, where Powell will meet with NATO allies and members of the European Union on Thursday, the focus will be on postwar reconstruction in Iraq.
France and Germany opposed the war, preferring extended U.N. searches for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, and a division also exists over postwar planning. France and Russia want a dominant role for the United Nations in a post-Saddam Hussein transition.
The composition of a peacekeeping force is among items on Powell's agenda for the trip that Boucher said Powell decided to take as late as Sunday.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the White House envoy to Iraqi opposition groups, assured Turkish officials Monday in Ankara that Iraqi Kurds would not seize the oil-rich city of Kirkuk unilaterally, which could trigger a Turkish incursion into northern Iraq.
Turkey fears that Kirkuk would give the Kurds economic muscle that might entice them to declare an independent state. In turn, the Turks fear, restive Turkish Kurds could be goaded into a similar move.
Iraqi Kurdish fighters, under the command of U.S. forces, are moving into range of Kirkuk. The forces advanced Sunday, taking control over about 10 miles of territory left by withdrawing Iraqi forces.
"It's a chance at a critical moment for both us and Turkey to talk about what's going on in Iraq, talk about the effects on Turkey, talk about many of the things we are doing together with Turkey in the war on terrorism," Boucher said Monday.
Turkey, whose alliance with the United States extends at least as far back as the Korean War, has let the U.S.-led coalition to use Turkish airspace for combat flights against Iraq.
Turkey declined, however, to permit its territory to be used for an invasion of northern Iraq. An offer of a $6-billion special aid package did not change Turkey's stand.
Bush has asked Congress also to approve $1 billion in assistance to Turkey, along with war-related aid to Israel, Jordan and several other countries.
The top Republican and Democrat on the House International Relations Committee are asking congressional appropriators for a "modest reduction in the request."
Chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill., and Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., said in a letter the aid should be released gradually and tied to Turkey's economic policies and its role as an ally.
"Turkey's recent activities have caused significant and justified consternation in Congress," they said.
Opposition to the war is strong in Turkey, which has a mostly secular Muslim majority, as it is in many Muslim and non-Muslim countries around the world.
Powell wants to work with Turkish officials to plan a representative government in Baghdad after the removal of President Saddam Hussein's administration, Boucher said.
As for the European allies, Boucher said Powell's trip would not be a fence-mending mission. "We have allies with different views. We will be talking about that," he said.
"The issue at this moment for us and the Europeans on the diplomatic track is to look at what is going on in Iraq, not in terms of the past but in terms of what we can do to give the Iraqis a better future," Boucher said.