Investment talks bring Turkish PM to Baghdad

By Qassim Abdul-zahra

Associated Press

Published: Monday, March 28 2011 3:05 a.m. MDT

In this Tuesday, March 22, 2011 photo, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures while addressing his lawmakers in Ankara, Turkey. Turkey, NATO's only Muslim member, is wary of the scope of any alliance-led mission in Libya but also feels bound to international obligations despite longstanding ties with Moammar Gadhafi. Erdogan, who received a human rights award, given in the name of Gadhafi, last year in Tripoli, welcomed on Friday NATO plans to take command of Libya operations, saying it had deprived France of a leadership role.

Burhan Ozbilici, Associated Press

BAGHDAD — Business investments to help Iraq export oil and boost its dwindling electricity and water supplies are expected to top the agenda Monday of a highly anticipated visit to Baghdad by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Hundreds of Iraqis, mostly devout Shiites, lined the airport road from Baghdad to welcome Erdogan. The Turkish prime minister was to meet his Iraqi counterpart, Nouri al-Maliki, and later address parliament.

"It's an important visit," said Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh, adding that dozens of Turkish businessmen are accompanying Erdogan on the two-day trip.

Al-Dabbagh said Erdogan also will meet with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani — Iraqi-based Shiism's highest ranking cleric in the Mideast — to discuss unrest in Bahrain and strife across the Arab world.

Political observers in Baghdad believe Sistani may ask Erdogan to act as a mediator in Bahrain, where Sunni-led security forces have cracked down on mostly Shiite protesters who are demonstrating against the tiny island's monarchy.

Al-Maliki repeatedly has said he fears the unrest in Bahrain could spark sectarian violence around the Mideast — a particularly fearful scenario for Iraq, which is only just recovering from years of deadly Sunni-Shiite battles.

But al-Dabbagh called the strife in Bahrain "an internal affair."

"I don't think Turkey can mediate to solve the problem in Bahrain," he said. "It is a subject related to its people and its government."

Hours before Erdogan's arrival, three bombs exploded in Baghdad, killing one person and wounding 13, in a stark reminder of the scattered violence that continues to plague Iraq on a daily basis.

And in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, a former al-Qaida stronghold, police said unknown gunmen stormed a family home, killing six women and a man in the early hours Monday before escaping from the scene.

A motive for the killing was not immediately known, although a policeman said it appeared to a terrorist attack. Mosul, about 225 miles (360 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, still has pockets of Sunni insurgents around the city.

A morgue official at Mosul's hospital confirmed the death toll. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

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