ANKARA, Turkey – Turkish officials dismissed opposition from Iraq's Governing Council to the deployment of Turkish peacekeepers, saying it reflected personal opinions and not the will of the Iraqi people.
Parliament voted Tuesday to give the government permission to send troops. Members of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council (search) quickly said they opposed deployments from Turkey or other neighboring countries, illustrating the difficulties Washington faces as it tries to put together a force for Iraq.
The Bush administration has been pressing Turkey for months to send what would be the first major Muslim contingent of peacekeepers, a deployment that would enhance the credibility of the U.S.-led force in Iraq.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Huseyin Dirioz said he expected talks with the United States on the details of the deployment to start soon, but the discussions could take months.
"The interim council does not reflect or express the feelings of the Iraqi people," Education Minister Huseyin Celik said before leaving for the United States to attend a conference. Latest News
L. Paul Bremer (search), the chief U.S. administrator in Iraq, was expected to meet with council members later Wednesday to discuss the deployment of Turkish troops.
Council President Iyad Allawi (search) said Wednesday it will "positively take into account the needs of our friends in the coalition who are keen on having the Turkish army here, but at the same time there are important sensitivities that must be considered."
Parliament voted 358-183 Tuesday to give the government permission to dispatch troops, a move that top officials said would improve ties with Washington and help give Turkey a say in the future of Iraq.
The United States has asked Turkey to send some 10,000 soldiers. They will join about 22,000 troops from 31 countries and about 130,000 U.S. soldiers.
The deployment is controversial in Turkey, with polls showing a majority of the people are against sending peacekeepers.
About 500 people staged a sit-down demonstration in Istanbul's main Taksim square Wednesday to protest the vote. Hundreds of university students also demonstrated outside an Istanbul campus, holding banners that read: "No to war."
Iraq's 15-member governing council opposes troops from neighboring countries, fearing they could have their own agendas. The council met Tuesday as parliament voted to authorize troops.
"After long deliberations we reached consensus on issuing a statement opposing the arrival of Turkish troops," said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish member of the council.
Othman said the statement's release was delayed, apparently due to U.S. pressure.
Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul dismissed the statement Tuesday.
"Members with Kurdish origins thought that way, but in the end they decided that it wouldn't be right," Gul said.
A U.S. administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity said Tuesday that the United States would insist that Turkish troops participate despite the Iraqis' opposition.
The Turkish Ottoman Empire ruled Iraq for about 400 years until World War I. For some 15 years, Turkey fought Turkish Kurdish rebels who now have bases in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq, a fight that has left some 37,000 people dead.
Turkey fears that Kurds living in an autonomous area of northern Iraq could declare independence, which might provoke Turkish Kurdish rebels.