US strike of Iraq radar criticised in Turkey

Ankara: Jan 12 (South News) A US attack of an Iraqi early warning radar site, which the Pentagon has conceded was not a targeting radar, worried Turkey Tuesday.

Turkish Prime minister Ecevit told NTV television, ``The American planes bomb targets in northern Iraq using a claim, an excuse, that they themselves were targeted,'' Ecevit said, adding that he was concerned the warplanes might trigger dangerous escalation.

``I am worried that air raids will increase after the end of Ramadan,'' Ecevit said, referring to the Muslim holy month, which ends in days with the sighting of the new moon.

Turkey's new prime minister made it clear on Tuesday he would not allow Turkish bases to be used for any prolonged bombing of Iraq.

The United States and Britain have used their planes stationed at the Incirlik air base in south Turkey to patrol a "no-fly" zone in northern Iraq since the end of the 1990-1991 Gulf War. But the allies must seek Turkey's permission to use the planes for any sort of strikes against Iraq.

The United States said today that one of its warplanes fired a missile at a radar site in a Western- imposed no-fly zone in northern Iraq, the second such incident in two days.

The latest incident differs from earlier events because the radar posed no immediate threat to the American aircraft. In two attacks the previous day, US planes from Incirlik had attacked air defence radar sites after they locked onto aircraft.

The Pentagon insists the strike was still in self-defence but expressing unease over US attacks, Turkey's new prime minister made clear today he wouldn't let a US-led force use Turkey's air bases for any prolonged bombing of Iraq.

Washington never publicly sought the required Turkish permission for use of the Incirlik base in those attacks; many believe Ankara would have refused. Turkey, a NATO member, backed the United States during the 1991 Gulf War but has since complained of billions of dollars in lost revenues because of a trade embargo imposed on Iraq.

Ankara claims that it suffered both political and financial losses following the 1990-1991 Gulf War, including $US30 million ($A47.13 million) in trade due to the embargo imposed on neighbouring Iraq after the war.

However, Turkish leaders rarely criticise the United States, avoiding the kind of hard-line statement Ecevit made today against use of the base for offensive action. But Ecevit has been more open to Iraq than other Turkish leaders, objecting to past US attacks and visiting Baghdad to meet with Saddam.

``I think the United States does not have any decision regarding the kind of solution they want to see in Iraq,'' he said Tuesday.

Ecevit returned to power yesterday after the previous government collapsed in a corruption scandal. A veteran leftist politician, Ecevit was also prime minister in the 1970s.