Turkey's new government agrees to U.S. inspection team

Friday, January 10, 2003

ANKARA Turkey has decided to approve the first stage of cooperation with the United States in any war against Iraq.

The United States had warned Ankara against any further delays in granting final approval to Washington's request for Turkish military bases for a war against Iraq.

Turkish military sources said U.S. diplomats and officials have besieged the Turkish government of Prime Minister Abdullah Gul with clarifications over whether Ankara would allow up to 90,000 U.S. troops to move through Turkey in any war against Iraq. The U.S. request calls for the use of at least six Turkish military bases and sea ports for the war effort.

Officials said the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Gul has decided to approve a U.S. proposal for a 150-member team of military experts to inspect Turkish military bases and ports. The U.S. request had been delayed amid disagreement whether the U.S. delegation would be bound to Turkish law during their stay.

After assurances from Washington, Ankara decided to sign a memorandum of understanding on for the U.S. base and port survey, officials said. The inspection will include at least six Turkish military bases as well as three sea ports. The United States has been using the Turkish air base at Incerlik for more than a decade.

Officials said the government decision was relayed to parliament on Monday. They said the memorandum would be signed before or during the visit of the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers to Ankara. Myers is expected to arrive in Turkey on Jan. 24 to discuss a U.S. military deployment plan in Turkey.

In Washington, U.S. officials refused to confirm the Turkish agreement to sign the MoU. They acknowledged that Turkey has been delaying the arrival of the U.S. military delegation for the last several weeks.

On Wednesday, a U.S. official was quoted as warning that Washington would end all aid to Ankara unless it cooperated in the war against Iraq. In an interview with the Ankara-based Sabah daily, the unidentified U.S. official said the administration would not consider Turkish interests in a post-Saddam Iraq unless Ankara agrees to Washington's request for military bases. Turkey wants control over much of northern Iraq, including oil fields as well as autonomy for Iraq's Turkmen minority.

In addition, Turkey has requested up to $25 billion in U.S. aid in exchange for a long-term U.S. military presence. The aid request is said to include a partial forgiving of Ankara's $5 billion military debt to the United States.

Turkish government sources said Ankara has been allowing CIA and U.S. military teams to enter northern Iraq through the Turkish border. They said the U.S. squads have captured at least 150 insurgents loyal to the regime of President Saddam Hussein.

The United States wants to deploy nearly 90,000 troops in southern Turkey and northern Iraq, officials said. They said the force would include about 6,000 soldiers from the U.S. Special Operations Command.

Another U.S. request is for Turkey to allow its air space for all U.S. and British operations required for a war against Iraq. Officials said this would include the flight of British warplanes from bases in Cyprus through Turkey.

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