By Suzan Fraser, Associated Press
The United States' top military officer stressed today the need for Turkey to help enforce United Nations sanctions against Iran aimed at deterring it from obtaining a nuclear bomb.
Turkey voted against the US-backed sanctions against Iran in June, insisting that its neighbor's nuclear program is peaceful, despite fears that Tehran might be seeking to develop nuclear arms. Turkey has, however, stated that it will abide by the sanctions.
Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in the Turkish capital he did not plan to "question or rebut" Turkey over the vote and welcomed Turkey's stated intention to abide by those sanctions.
The UN approved a fourth round of sanctions against Iran in early June over accusations that Tehran is seeking to develop atomic weapons. Iran denies its nuclear program is militaristic in nature and says it has a right to conduct uranium enrichment for peaceful purposes. Washington and other powers accuse Iran of seeking to build a nuclear weapon.
Mullen said that both countries agree that Iran should not achieve "a nuclear weapons capability," and need "to do all that we can to ensure that."
Mullen arrived in Ankara yesterday to meet with his new Turkish counterpart, Gen. Isik Kosaner, who took office on August 27. He also met with Turkey's prime minister and defense minister. No statements were released after those meetings.
Mullen praised Turkey - NATO's sole Muslim member state - for its role in Afghanistan and said the United States would welcome any additional help it can provide.
Turkey currently holds the rotating command of the international peacekeeping force guarding the Afghan capital, while Turkish instructors are training the Afghan army and police force.
"We would like Turkey to sustain all of those efforts," Mullen said. "Any additional capabilities that Turkey can provide against the training shortfall, that would certainly be of great help."
The US military chief said Washington has no plans to withdraw its weapons from Iraq through Turkey, though the US military has sought Turkish permission to transport some noncombat equipment from Iraq through its territory.
Turkey has said it looks favorably on the passage of such equipment and technical material, but not arms, which would require parliament's approval.
In 2003, Turkey refused to allow US forces to use its territory to invade Iraq.