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Turkey asserts buffer zone right

Turkish soldiers guard a check point in Silopi on the Turkish-Iraqi border.
Turkish soldiers guard a check point in Silopi on the Turkish-Iraqi border.

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ANKARA, Turkey (CNN) -- Turkey has the right to a 20 kilometer buffer zone in northern Iraq if there is an influx of Kurdish refugees, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said Tuesday.

Earlier Tuesday, Britain joined the United States in urging Ankara not to send troops to Iraq. Gul said there is no plan to send troops at this time and that none have been sent.

He said Turkey remains in communication with the United States over when and if Turkish troops should be sent across the Iraqi border.

In Washington, the U.S. State Department announced the Bush administration is asking Congress for $1 billion in grant money to provide aid to Turkey to cover expenses associated with the war in Iraq.

Spokesman Richard Boucher said the grants could be used to fund several billion dollars in loans for Turkey.

In London, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw acknowledged the anxiety the Turkish government has over Kurdish refugees streaming over the Iraqi border.

But in remarks to the House of Commons, Straw reiterated it would not be in Ankara's interest to send troops to Iraq.

He said the refugee situation in northern Iraq "has changed markedly" since 1991, when about "a half million refugees" streamed over an undefended border.

"It would not serve their interests if there were to be any aggressive military action taken by Turkish forces," Straw said.

"The Turkish government has played a constructive role in trying to calm tensions between Turkish community on one side of the border and the Kurdish community on the other."

He said Britain and Turkey have been in close contact on the matter. Straw, who spoke to Gul last week, said the Turkish foreign minister had told him Turkey had been trying to keep in contact and maintain cooperation with Kurdish leaders.

The United States has told Turkey not to send its forces into the area, fearing clashes between Turkish troops and local Kurdish militia. Turkey has said it would deploy troops at the border to control refugee camps and prevent refugees from crossing its border.

The country is concerned about moves to establish a Kurdish state in Iraq and separatist Kurdish moves in its country. U.S. officials insist a Kurdish state would not emerge.

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