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U.S. wins key Turkey access deals

Powell Gul
Powell, right, and Gul in Ankara

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ANKARA, Turkey (CNN) -- The United States has secured key agreements from Turkey over access to northern Iraq, following meetings between U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and his Turkish counterparts.

U.S. officials told CNN after the Wednesday meetings in the Turkish capital of Ankara that the U.S. had got "everything it wanted."

This included agreements from Turkey allowing overflights for U.S. heavy military equipment into northern Iraq and allowing passage for humanitarian and reconstruction assistance.

Powell also reached agreement with Turkish officials to establish a "coordination committee" comprised of representatives from Turkey, the United States and Iraqi Kurdish groups to discuss potential acts that could provoke Turkey to want to move more troops into northern Iraq.

Striking a conciliatory tone, Powell said Turkey will have a "big role" in the reconstruction of Iraq after the war.

Powell said in a joint appearance with Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul that he was disappointed when the Turkish parliament refused in March to allow the United States to let U.S. troops use its territory to launch an invasion into northern Iraq, but the issue had not affected the war effort.

"As the result of flexible planning and a great deal of skill on the part of our commanders, we've been able to work around that, and we are now deeply appreciative of the overflight clearances that have been provided by the parliament and the Turkish government," Powell said.

"Tensions have lessened," he added. "... The U.S.-Turkish relationship is a strong one, and we have been with each other in war and peace."

Powell said the U.S. recognized Turkey's concerns about terrorist attacks, Kurdish control of northern Iraq, and the possibility of Kurdish refugees crossing into southern Turkey.

Gul added, "Turkish-American relations are based on very strong foundations. Currently, we have a war in the region, which could not be prevented, unfortunately. We hope it is a short war ... with minimum casualties."

Powell said Turkey would be able to provide Iraq with a good example of a Muslim democracy as it forms a government after the war.

"Turkey will have an important role to play in this reconstruction effort, not only helping with direct reconstruction help, but also by the example that Turkey will provide to Iraq of a Muslim democracy living in peace with its friends and neighbors," Powell said.

After speaking to reporters, Powell left Ankara for Belgrade to meet the new president of Serbia and Montenegro, Svetozar Marovic, and the new prime minister of Serbia, Zoran Zivkovic.

He will also visit the widow of assassinated Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic to express his condolences. Djindjic was assassinated last month in Belgrade. (Special report)

"The secretary's visit will be an opportunity to underscore our strong commitments to Serbia and Montenegro's fight against the nexus of organized crime, war criminals and political extremism; its efforts to overcome obstacles to integration with Euro-Atlantic institutions; and the region's long-term stability and economic growth," said a U.S. State Department statement.

On Thursday, Powell is due in Brussels for talks at NATO headquarters on easing the tension between the U.S. and some European countries over the war in Iraq.

--CNN State Department Correspondent Andrea Koppel contributed to this report


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