Thursday, January 27, 2005

Turkey's Erdogan Says Iraq Vote Undemocratic

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that this weekend's Iraqi election would not be fully democratic and was unlikely to stem violence or help stabilize the country.

"It would not be possible to characterize this election as a fully democratic election," Erdogan told reporters at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, noting that one major ethnic group, Sunni Arabs, had decided not to participate.

"But it could be characterized as a transition-to-democracy election," he added.

"Not all of the electorate will be able to vote."

"This is the signal of some more negative developments in the future of Iraq," he said.

Asked whether he believed Sunday's voting would help reduce widespread violence in Iraq, he said: "The way it seems right now, it doesn't seem as if it's going to be diminishing."

Turkey refused to let the United States use its bases to launch the invasion that topped Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Asked whether he still felt that parliamentary decision was justified, Erdogan said Turkey would never see fit to collaborate with something it felt was unjust or unfair.

The failure to carry out proper voter registration and the use of a system allowing voters to transfer from other regions to the city of Kirkuk, which Iraqi Kurds claim as part of their autonomous region, were among the "irregularities," he said.

The Turkish leader expressed concern that the election could be divisive because it was taking place largely on the basis of ethnicity, and stressed Turkey remained committed to the territorial integrity of its neighbor.

Erdogan cast doubt on media reports that the United States may be preparing for a military strike against Iran's disputed nuclear program, but he declined categorically to rule out the use of Turkish bases for such an operation.

He said Turkey had no grounds to doubt Iran's statement that its atomic research effort was purely for civilian purposes and that it was cooperating fully with the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

"We went through a similar experience in Iraq. I believe every country in the world has drawn some lessons from what we went through in Iraq," Erdogan said.

However, pressed to say whether Turkey would allow the United States to use its air bases if there were a military strike on Iran, he said: "It's too early to talk about that. You make decisions when you need to make decisions. You don't make decisions based on pre-assumptions."

Posted By: Redneck Texan