ANKARA Ñ Turkey's cabinet, under heavy pressure from the Bush administration,
has approved the deployment of up to 40,000 U.S. troops.
On Monday, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Abdullah Gul approved
Washington's request for the immediate deployment of U.S. troops in any war
against Iraq. Officials said the Cabinet sent the decision to parliament for
a vote expected by Wednesday. Nevertheless intense, late-night negotiations continued.
Officials said parliament is likely to approve the U.S. request. The Gul
coalition has the support of nearly two-thirds of parliament.
At least four U.S. warships are waiting off the Turkish coast to unload
tanks, armored personnel carriers for their deployment along the Iraqi
border. At the same time, a U.S. military delegation is preparing to
modernize the Turkish air force base at Batman in the Anatolia region.
A Turkish military source said the U.S. deployment at Batman would be
long-term and provide Washington with a deep-strike capability throughout
the Middle East and Central Asia.
The Gul government had insisted that it would not approve U.S. military
deployment until full agreement is reached on a multi-billion compensation
"Efforts to reach a consensus with the United States are still
continuing," Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Abdullatif Sener said.
[In Washington, the United States welcomed the decision by Turkey's
Cabinet. "There are still some additional 't's to be crossed and 'i's to be
dotted, but nevertheless, this is a very serious matter and the democratic
country of Turkey has taken it seriously, has responded seriously, has
listened carefully, and we're working together," White House spokesman Ari
Fleischer said. "And that's where it stands for now."]
A Turkish official said Ankara has reduced its compensation aid request
from Washington. The official said Turkey now wants $5 billion in grants and
$10 billion in loans from the United States.
Still, the compensation package has not been resolved. One
obstacle, officials said, is a request by Ankara for billions of dollars on
the eve of a war against Iraq in what they termed "bridge credit."
Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis said Turkey could not wait until
Congress is asked to vote on Ankara's aid request, which could take months.
He did not say how much money Ankara wanted immediately.
"But in two months the war could already be over," Yakis said.
The source said the use of Batman would
differ from that of the air force base at Incerlik, the launching pad for
British and U.S. air patrols of the no-fly zone in northern Iraq.