Turkey sends convoy of 100 tanks, APCs to northern Iraq

Thursday, January 2, 2003

ANKARA Turkey has sent an additional 100 main battle tanks and armored personnel carriers into northern Iraq.

The military convoy began moving over the weekend as armored vehicles crossed the Khabour Gate on the Iraqi-Turkish border. Turkey is said to have already sent more than 15,000 troops in northern Iraq in preparation for a U.S.-led war against the regime of President Saddam Hussein.

Turkish government sources said Ankara has also sent a range of helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, artillery and combat vehicles to northern Iraq, Middle East Newsline reported. They said the military has also flown military equipment to southern Turkish air bases at Baker and Batman.

Ankara has agreed in principle to cooperate with the United States to topple the Saddam regime. But Turkey has not formally relayed such a decision to Washington until parliament votes on the issue.

A 150-member U.S. military delegation is scheduled to tour Turkish air bases for the deployment of U.S. aircraft near the Iraqi-Turkish border. Washington has asked Ankara for six military bases and additional sea ports for the war effort.

Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, is expected to arrive in Ankara next week for talks with Turkish civilian and military leaders. Myers's visit will concentrate on preparations for a war against Baghdad.

The focus of the U.S. military preparations is taking place at the Incerlik air force base. Turkish newspapers report that the air base is being expanded and refurbished for B-2 bombers and other large U.S. warplanes.

The Turkish sources said the military is also continuing its military buildup along the Syrian border. They said the buildup is meant to stop the flow of refugees from Syria, regarded as Baghdad's leading ally in the Middle East.

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