Cheney tells Sharon U.S. wants to attack Iraq for Israel's sake
2002-03-20 20:44:47 IAP News
20 March 2002 US vice-President Dick Cheney reportedly told Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that the U.S. was planning to attack Iraq "first and foremost for Israel's sake."
According to Israeli sources quoted by Israeli state-run radio Wednesday, Cheney asked Sharon to "tone down" the confrontation with the Palestinians so as not to disrupt or disturb American plans vis-a-vis Iraq.
The sources quoted Cheney as saying that he expected President Bush to decide to attack Iraq in spite of widespread opposition in the Arab world.
Sharon said publicly Tuesday that Israel would bless wholeheartedly any American attack on Iraq, telling Cheney that the US "can always count on us."
Israeli press reported this week that Sharon was hoping that a decisive American onslaught against Iraq would demoralize the Palestinians and force them to concede defeat and put an end to the intifada.
However, Cheney and Sharon reportedly agreed to keep coordination and cooperation on Iraq behind the curtain in order not to embarrass pro-American puppet Arab regimes.
Cheney arrived in Ankara Tuesday on an 11-nation visit to the Middle East and Britain that many have said was aimed at drumming up support for a possible campaign to overthrow President Saddam.
Turkish leaders have repeatedly voiced opposition to any action against their southern neighbor.
"There is no question of any military action against Iraq in the foreseeable future," Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit told reporters after meeting with Cheney.
Ankara, the Turkish capital, was the last stop on Cheney's tour.
Cheney said in occupied Jerusalem earlier Tuesday that no decision had yet been made on whether to attack Iraq.
Turkish police tightened security in downtown Ankara hours before Cheney's arrival and detained 80 people for lack of proper identification, the Anatolia news agency reported.
A few hundred people from trade unions and small left-wing parties protested Cheney's visit, shouting anti-US slogans.
Local reports said the Turkish leaders would tell Cheney that Turkey would not contribute any troops to a possible US campaign against Iraq.
However, Turkey would discuss providing logistical support, such as the use of its air bases, the reports said.
Turkey, a close US ally, has strongly supported Washington's anti-terror campaign in Afghanistan.
Turkey was a staging point for US attacks during the Gulf War and US planes are already based in Turkey's southern Incirlik air base from which they patrol a no- fly zone over northern Iraq.
But Turkey fears that a war in Iraq could further destabilise the region, devastate its fragile economy, and lead to the creation of a separate Kurdish state in northern Iraq that could in turn encourage similar ambitions among Turkey's 12 million Kurds.
Iraqi Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani also arrived in Ankara for talks Tuesday.
Talabani was not expected to meet with Cheney, but in a previous visit the Kurdish leader said he opposed a direct US intervention in Iraq.