By Andrew Borowiec

The Washington Times
World Peace Herald, DC
May 16 2006

NICOSIA, Cyprus -- Turkey remains adamant in rejecting foreign pressure
to admit guilt for the 90-year-old massacres of Armenians, at the
same time intensifying its military buildup on its border with Iraq.

After a tense period of what some analysts describe as "rejectionist
diplomacy," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated his
government's unswerving opposition to a proposed French law that would
make denial of the World War I massacres of 1.5 million Armenians a
criminal offense.

The French draft bill is "like a virus," Mr. Erdogan said after
ordering the withdrawal of a Turkish component from NATO military
maneuvers in Canada because Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper
described the massacres as genocide.

Some analysts say Turkey has painted itself into a "diplomatic corner"
at a time when it needs support in its negotiations for membership
in the European Union, in which France is a key member.

On Thursday, the French National Assembly is to open debate on the
bill, which calls for punishment of one year in prison and a $57,000
fine for anyone who denies the massacre of Turkish-Armenians.

Turkish officials have asked several French businessmen in Turkey to
pressure lawmakers to block the bill, whose drafting was influenced
by the Armenian diaspora. France was threatened with a boycott of
goods even though it is the biggest foreign investor in Turkey.

Diplomats say the campaign could degenerate into a trade war and
hamper Turkey's EU aspirations. The Erdogan government has staked
its prestige on EU membership.

For years, the denial of the deaths of the Armenians during a forced
"resettlement march" in 1915 has marred Turkey's relations with
several European countries, tarnishing its human rights record.

The political and diplomatic skirmishing over the issue has been
accompanied by a systematic military buildup along Turkey's border
with northern Iraq, where diplomats estimate about 200,000 troops
and paramilitary forces have been massed.

During her visit to Ankara in April, Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice warned Turkey to keep out of Iraq regardless of its assertion
that northern Iraq harbors bases of separatist guerrillas of the
Kurdistan Workers Party.

Washington and some of its allies worry that a Turkish incursion
into Iraq would represent yet another destabilizing factor in the
troubled country.

Turkey says its forces in the area are a "shield" to prevent rebel
infiltrations in a war with Turkish Kurds that since 1984 has claimed
more than 37,000 lives and devastated hundreds of villages.

"If the conditions arise," Gen. Bekir Kalyoncu has said, "Turkey will
use its right as any sovereign country." Turkish officials have said
the United Nations charter, which authorizes "the right to self-defense
in case of attack," justifies the right to "hot pursuit."