Turkey troops plan angers Iraq
ANKARA, Turkey (CNN) -- The Turkish parliament has approved a motion which allows peacekeeping troops to be sent to Iraq.
The move, as requested by Turkey's NATO ally, the United States, could lead to the first contingent of Muslim peacekeepers being sent to Iraq.
But any such deployment was immediately condemned by Iraq's Governing Council.
After a two-and-a-half-hour debate in closed session Tuesday, the parliament backed the deployment with 358 votes in favor and 183 votes against.
Analysts say a Turkish deployment would help relieve pressure on U.S. forces in Iraq and bolster Ankara's ties with Washington after a period of strain.
The Bush administration welcomed the decision.
"The United States believes Turkish troops would contribute to stability in Iraq, and we will be consulting closely with the Turkish government over the details of Turkish participation," U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
Jouralist Andrew Finkel told CNN the move represented "a very major shift in policy" by Turkey.
The motion gives the government the authority to send troops for a year, but does not specify how many troops would be deployed or when.
Officials have said the United States requested about 10,000 troops.
Issues that still have to be negotiated include where troops would be stationed. Reports have suggested that they could be deployed in the Sunni Arab areas, west and north of Baghdad.
The Iraqi Governing Council drafted a statement Tuesday condemning the deployment of Turkish troops.
A Iraq Governing Council official, who did not want to be identified, said the statement condemns the deployment in Iraq of any troops from surrounding nations, including Turkey.
The official said the statement received strong but not unanimous support from the 25-member council, but the council had chosen not to pass a resolution demanding action.
Turkey -- the main remnant of the Ottoman Empire which ruled what is now Iraq -- is viewed with suspicion by many Iraqis, particularly Kurds, who share a defacto border with the country.
Late last month, the United States agreed to $8.5 billion worth of loans to Turkey in compensation for damage to its economy as a result of the war in Iraq. One of the stipulations for the loans was Turkey's cooperation on Iraq.
However, President George W. Bush's administration said the loans do not hinge on Turkey sending troops to Iraq.
In March, Turkey denied U.S. requests to allow U.S. troops to be stationed there, a move that heightened tensions between the two countries.
Government spokesman Cemil Cicek said Monday troops would be deployed for one year, adding: "We hope that they stay for less than one year."
The Turkish public was overwhelmingly opposed to the war in Iraq, and with the number of U.S. casualties mounting, it is also strongly opposed to sending soldiers now.
On Monday, anti-war demonstrators staged a protest outside the prime minister's office where the Cabinet met, splashing red paint on the street.