Turkey threatens to delay U.S. deployment after NATO split

Friday, February 14, 2003

ANKARA Turkey has threatened to delay a decision for the deployment of U.S. troops in preparation for the war against Iraq.

Turkish officials said the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Gul has been dismayed by divisions within NATO to provide military help to Ankara to defend against the prospect of an Iraqi missile attack as well as by Washington's failure to agree to Ankara's demands for compensation.

A Turkish request to European members of the alliance for PAC-2 systems has been delayed amid the NATO dispute, Middle East Newsline reported.

[On Thursday, Germany and the Netherlands agreed to help Turkey's defense capabilities despite the NATO division. Ankara had asked the two countries for PAC-2 systems.]

Last week, Ankara approved the deployment of 3,500 U.S. military personnel to upgrade Turkish air force bases and sea ports in preparation for combat troops, naval ships and aircraft. Turkey's parliament was scheduled to vote next week on a proposal for the deployment of up to 40,000 U.S. troops in the war against Iraq.

But the chairman of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, Recep Erdogan, said Ankara might delay the parliamentary vote. Erdogan is regarded as the most authoritative civilian voice in Turkey.

Erdogan told the Yeni Safak newspaper that Turkey wants to wait for a United Nations Security Council resolution on Iraq before a parliamentary vote for U.S. combat troop deployment. He said the parliamentary session scheduled for Tuesday would not result in an immediate vote.

"Turkey will watch, evaluate and then prepare the motion [for U.S. troop deployment]," Erdogan said.

U.S. officials have expressed frustration with the halting pace of Turkish participation in the expected war against Iraq. The officials have pressed Ankara for a quick decision that would allow U.S. troops to land in Turkey and head for Iraq.

But both Turkish and U.S. officials acknowledge that the pace of the talks has been hampered by a failure to agree on a compensation package for Ankara. The Washington Post quoted U.S. officials on Friday as saying that Turkey's demand for up to $25 billion in U.S. aid is outlandish.

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