Turkey misses another U.S. deadline

Sunday, February 23, 2003

ANKARA Turkey continues to delay a decision on whether Washington could deploy up to 40,000 troops in the NATO ally.

The government of Prime Minister Abdullah Gul ignored a Friday deadline by the United States for Ankara to decide on the military deployment.

Instead, senior officials said the government is awaiting a U.S reply for Turkey's request for $10 billion in grants and parliament could decide the issue on Tuesday.

Gul said he hoped that the Turkish-U.S. negotiations would be resolved within the next few days. The prime minister linked Ankara's approval for U.S. military deployment to Washington's agreement for Turkey's aid request, Middle East Newsline reported.

"They understand our worries, we understand theirs," Gul said. "A result will be reached in the next few days. The negotiations are being conducted in an atmosphere of friendship, confidence and mutual unterstanding."

Turkey's Economy Minister Ali Babacan said Washington has not satisfied Turkey's concerns in other areas apart from economic aid. The minister would not elaborate.

Ankara and Washington are said to have reached an initial agreement on the troop level in northern Iraq. Under the agreement, Turkey and the United States would coordinate military activities in northern Iraq under separate commands.

Turkish sources reported over the weekend that thousands of Turkish troops, backed by tanks and armored personnel carriers, entered northern Iraq. The sources said the Turkish force was sent to head off the advance of some 5,000 Iranian-backed Kurdish forces that had entered northern Iraq from Iran over the last week.

Turkey is also set to receive early-warning aircraft later this week from NATO. Turkish sources said the planes will be based in the Anatolian air base at Konya.

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