Bush's Turkey visit prompts massive security operation


Sun, Jun 27, 2004 - Page 6

In a massive security operation before US President George W. Bush's arrival yesterday, Turkish police defused bombs, sealed off streets and detained scores of people as a recent spate of bombings put the country on alert.

A false report of a bomb blast yesterday morning caused confusion briefly until officials clarified it had been a gas explosion in a hotel in southern Turkey.

Two confirmed small bomb blasts overnight caused minor damage but no injuries in the southern city of Adana, and police defused a remote-controlled bomb placed under a car in the Black Sea port town of Zonguldak, the semi-official Anatolia news agency said. Twin bombings killed four people two days ago.

For weeks, demonstrators have protested against a NATO summit that begins tomorrow in Istanbul and against the US president, who is extremely unpopular in a country where most people opposed the Iraq war.

Some 500 worshippers gathered after prayers Friday at Istanbul's 16th-century Beyazit mosque, some chanting "Death to Bush."

In the capital, Ankara, police prepared to close several roads to traffic hours for Bush's arrival. He was to meet with Turkish leaders in Ankara today before proceeding to Istanbul for the summit.

Police sealed off streets in Istanbul, searching cars and blowing up suspect packages as part of the security operation.

More than 23,000 officers will be on duty during the summit, to be attended by leaders of NATO countries, including Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac.

Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul said Friday there was "no situation present that would affect the NATO meeting."

Around the Istanbul convention center where the NATO summit will take place, police have installed dark-blue steel barricades.

Officers searched the trunks of cars and frisked people along the road leading to Istanbul's airport Friday, causing gridlock on Istanbul's already clogged streets.