Mullen seeks Turkey's help on Iran, urges extension of Afghan troop command
The United States' top military officer on Saturday urged Turkey to extend the period of its peacekeeping command in Afghanistan and also to help enforce United Nations sanctions against Iran, meant to deter it from developing a nuclear bomb. Turkey voted against US-backed sanctions on Iran in June, insisting that its neighbor's nuclear program is peaceful, despite fears that Tehran might be seeking to develop nuclear arms, but Ankara has pledged to abide by the sanctions. On a visit to Ankara, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that he didn't plan to question Turkey over the vote and praised Turkey's intention to abide by the sanctions. "I did not come here to question or in any way rebut Turkey's decision not to support United Nations sanctions against Iran," Mullen said. "I note with gratitude your government's stated intent to enforce those sanctions." He added, "The mutual goal of Iran not achieving a nuclear-weapons capability, that we completely agree on, we just need to reinforce." Both countries need to "do all we can to make sure that doesn't happen." Mullen arrived in Ankara on Friday to meet with his new Turkish counterpart, Chief of General Staff Gen. Isik Kosaner, who took office a week earlier. He also met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul. No statements were released after those meetings. Mullen praised Turkey for its role in Afghanistan and said the US would welcome any additional help it can provide. Turkey currently holds the rotating command of the international peacekeeping force guarding the Afghan capital Kabul, while Turkish instructors are training the Afghan army and police force. Turkey's command will expire in early November. The US military chief also made clear that 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. Mullen said the US doesn't expect to use Turkish land routes to remove weapons when the last American forces leave Iraq by the end of next year. Turkey has said it looks favorably on the passage of such equipment and technical material, but not arms, which would require Parliament's approval. Mullen also told how NATO is discussing locations for a potential missile defense system of radar and interceptors, though he said he didn't specifically address the plan with Kosaner. "The membership of NATO believes that having a missile defense architecture is a very important capability that needs to be put in place and evolve over time," Mullen said. "There have been discussions with several members of NATO – to include Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania – in terms of parts of this."