PM: Turkey Seeking to Send Troops to Iraq to Secure Border, Prevent Refugee Influx

Despite warnings from the United States and other NATO allies, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday his government was seeking to send troops into northern Iraq to prevent instability at the Turkish-Iraqi border.

Erdogan said in a televised address that he wanted to send soldiers into northern Iraq to quell any Kurdish rebellion and to prevent an influx of Iraqi refugees. He said Ankara and Washington had "reached agreement" on preventing a breakup of Iraq, but did not say whether that understanding included sending in Turkish troops.

In Washington, President Bush said Sunday he expected that Turkish troops would not enter Iraq.

"We have got more troops up north, and we're making it very clear that we expect them not to come into northern Iraq," Bush said. "They know our policy, and it's a firm policy."

Bush envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is expected in the Turkish capital in the coming days to discuss Ankara's demand and American concerns, U.S. officials said.

Germany and Belgium also warned Turkey against sending troops into Iraq, threatening to pull NATO crew members currently patrolling Turkish airspace. Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel said any Turkish incursion into Iraq could damage the country's bid to join the European Union.

Turkey fears that Iraqi Kurds in the semiautonomous north will declare independence in the aftermath of the Iraq war -- and encourage Turkey's own Kurds to do the same.

Turkey also wants to make sure Iraqi Kurds do not take control of oil fields in Iraq's Mosul and Kirkuk provinces, and wants Turkish soldiers at the border to prevent an influx of Iraqi refugees.

"The presence of Turkish troops in the region will be a source of security and stability both for Turkey and the region," Erdogan said.

The United States has repeatedly stated that it opposes the breakup of Iraq and will ensure that all groups in Iraq share in the country's resources.

The dispute over Turkish troops has further strained already tense relations between the two NATO allies.

The U.S. military, hoping to move heavy armored forces and ground troops into northern Iraq from Turkish bases, sent some 3,500 personnel to Turkey last month to prepare bases for wartime use.

But Turkey's parliament has refused to allow U.S. ground troops into the country, forcing Washington to abandon plans to open a northern front against Iraq from Turkey.

On Sunday, U.S. troops withdrew from a logistics base near Nusaybin, 75 miles from the Iraqi border. Jeeps and other military equipment were hauled from Nusaybin on flatbed trucks.

Dozens of ships carrying weaponry were redirected to the Army's 4th Infantry division in the Persian Gulf, U.S. officials said.

Turkey did grant the United States overflight rights, and coalition forces used Turkish airspace overnight Saturday to place some forces into northern Iraq, Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on ABC's "This Week."

Two Tomahawk cruise missiles malfunctioned and landed in Turkey on Sunday, a U.S. military official said. The missiles landed in unpopulated areas and no injuries were reported, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Turkish officials said large chunks of metal -- likely from missiles -- landed near the villages of Ozveren and Ayakli in the southeast.

"We heard the sound of a plane, followed by an explosion," Mehmet Yilmaz, the village leader of Ozveren, told Anatolia news agency. "There were flames rising 3 yards into the air."

The debris landed in an empty field, leaving a 3-foot-deep crater but causing no damage or injuries, said Sukru Kocatepe, governor of Sanliurfa province, less than 200 miles from the Iraqi border.