U.S. stunned as Turkish parliament rejects deployment

Monday, March 3, 2003

ANKARA Turkey's parliament has rejected a government request for U.S. military deployment in a major setback for U.S. plans for an attack on Iraq.

A parliament vote on Saturday failed to obtain an absolute majority for the deployment of more than 60,000 U.S. troops. The parliamentary leadership agreed after a closed door session than a simple majority was not enough to approve the request by the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Gul, Middle East Newsline reported.

The Bush administration appeared stunned by the parliamentary decision. An official said Washington would wait until Sunday before issuing a formal response.

"What more do you want?" Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party, asked. "It was a completely democratic result. May it be for the best," Officials said the Gul government had been expected to sign a draft memorandum with the United States. The memorandum of understanding was said to have covered the military and political aspects of a U.S. war against Iraq.

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"We had certainly hoped for a favorable decision," U.S. ambassador to Ankara Robert Pearson said. "We will wait for further information and advice from the government of Turkey about how we should proceed."

Parliament voted to approve the deployment of more than 60,000 U.S. troops by a vote of 264 to 250. The vote was far closer than expected and was not according to party lines. Nineteen parliamentarians abstained in the vote.

But the opposition Republican People's Party argued that the absence of an absolute majority of the 550-member parliament would not allow for passage of the resolution for U.S. military deployment. After a discussion, parliamentary speaker Bulent Arinc agreed and the government request was turned down. Parliament was not scheduled to reconvene until Tuesday.

On Sunday, Turkey's ruling party and government convene to discuss the next step.

Last week, the Gul Cabinet approved the deployment of up to 62,000 U.S. troops as well as 255 U.S. fixed-wing aircraft and 65 helicopters. Under the proposal, Turkey would obtain $20 billion in U.S. grants and loan guarantees as part of a compensation package.

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