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Iraq: Turkey's Parliament to Vote On Sending Peacekeepers

Ankara, 7 October 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The Turkish government expects parliament to begin debate today on a motion to deploy peacekeepers to Iraq, after the government announced yesterday it has agreed to send an unspecified number of troops to Iraq. Turkish government spokesman Cemil Cicek said yesterday that the soldiers would not be in Iraq more than one year. "Turkish soldiers will remain there for one year, that is, the validity of the motion we are sending to parliament has been limited to one year," he said. "We will not remain there permanently. Hopefully, peace and serenity will be restored [in Iraq] as quickly as possible, thus allowing us to leave even earlier."

The Turkish peacekeepers would be the first contingent from a mainly Muslim country in Iraq, and they would be expected to be deployed in areas outside northern Iraq, which is mainly Kurdish.

The U.S. government welcomed Ankara's move and assured Turkey that it will do more to combat the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels. The PKK waged a bloody separatist struggle in southeast Turkey and recently called off a unilateral five-year cease-fire, while offering Ankara a road map for peace talks.