ANKARA Ñ Turkey has approved a U.S. request to use its military bases
for a possible campaign against Iraq in exchange for the promise of more than $3 billion in aid from
Turkish leaders agreed to the U.S. use of Turkey's air
space and military bases in any offensive against the regime of Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein. The leaders said Washington would first require
United Nations endorsement, but officials said this condition appears
"If it comes to that, then of course, we will cooperate with the United
States because it's a big ally and we have excellent relations with the
United States," Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis said on Tuesday. "What
we mean by cooperation is opening air bases and opening facilities to use.
The military authorities of the two countries are consulting on the
assumption that such a cooperation may be necessary one day."
The Turkish offer of cooperation came during the visit of a senior U.S.
delegation to Ankara led by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul
Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman.
Officials said the Bush administration has offered Turkey $3.4 billion
in aid. The package consists of about $2.5 billion in military aid and the
rest in a low-interest credit. Other elements in the military package
include Washington's pledge to transfer unspecified technology and grant licenses
for U.S. defense systems.
Yakis said Ankara would also allow U.S. fighter-jets to launch strikes
against Iraq from Turkish air bases. He did not say whether Turkey would fly
combat missions against Iraqi targets, but other officials said Washington
has asked Ankara for 35,000 soldiers to help contain northern Iraq and its
Kurdish and Turkmen populations. Yakis said the deployment of tens of
thousands of American troops in Turkey is a scenario he found difficult to
Hours later, the Turkish Foreign Ministry appeared to backtrack from
Yakis's assurances to Washington. The statement said Yakis's words did not
comprise a "commitment on the part of Turkey, because these possibilities
have not been the subject of discussion with any country."
Wolfowitz provided assurances of U.S. support for its longtime ally.
"U.S.-Turkish cooperation is serious ... If there is a crisis in this
region, we know that Turkey is going to be one of the countries the most
affected. We want to make sure we deal with that."
Wolfowitz also met Turkish military commanders and senior defense
officials. A Turkish military statement said the issues discussed included
the future of Cyprus, Iraq, European Union defense policies and strategic
relations between Ankara and Washington.