Turkish army chief says US ties at serious risk

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ANKARA, Oct 14 (Reuters) Turkey's military chief said today that if the US Congress approved a bill branding the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks genocide ties between the NATO allies would never be the same again.

''If the resolution that has passed in the US committee is accepted by the assembly of the House of Representatives our military relations with the United States can never be the same again,'' chief of General Staff, General Yasar Buyukanit, told newspaper Milliyet.

''We could not explain this (keeping ties as normal) to Turkish opinion,'' he said in remarks published today.

Last week, a US House committee approved the non-binding resolution, brushing aside White House warnings that it would do great harm to ties with NATO ally Turkey.

The Armenian resolution now goes to the floor of the US House of Representatives, where Democrat leaders say there will be a vote next month.

Ankara recalled its ambassador from the United States for consultations after the US vote, which was strongly condemned in predominantly Muslim but secular Turkey.

Turkey rejects the Armenian position, backed by many Western historians and some foreign parliaments, that up to 1.5 million Armenians suffered genocide at the hands of Ottoman Turks.

Turkey says many Muslim Turks died alongside Christian Armenians in inter-ethnic conflict as the Ottoman Empire collapsed.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan cautioned on Friday that relations between Ankara and Washington were in danger.

''I'm the chief of General Staff. I deal with security isssues, I'm not a politician ... in this respect the United States has shot itself in the foot,'' Buyukanit said.

The United States relies heavily on Turkish bases to supply its war effort in Iraq.

REUTERS PD BST2006

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