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Russia: Putin Says Turkish Decision On U.S. Troops No Surprise

Moscow, 4 March 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin said Turkey's decision to block U.S. troops from using Turkish bases comes as no surprise, and is based on international opinion surrounding the Iraq crisis. Turkey's parliament this weekend opposed the deployment of U.S. troops in Turkey in preparation for a possible war in Iraq.

Russian news agencies today quote Putin as saying the decision takes international and domestic opinion into account, as well as the situation in other Islamic countries. "The decision might have been a surprise to someone, but not to Moscow. The motives that guided the Turkish parliament were clear to us. I think taking into account the international situation around Iraq, the situation taking shape in this context in the Islamic world, and considering [Turkey's] domestic political situation, one could hardly have expected a different decision from the Islamic Justice and Development Party that has recently won elections," Putin was quoted as saying.

But Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Takis today said the Turkish government is evaluating a new draft proposal on U.S. deployments.

In another development, the leader of Turkey's ruling party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, warned Iraq's Kurds not to "test" Ankara's goodwill in the case of war. Turkish leaders fear the country's Kurdish population could take advantage of regional instability to move towards independence.