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U.S. offers to reduce number of troops based in Turkey

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Friday, January 17, 2003

ANKARA Turkish officials said the United States has offered to reduce the number of troops required for long-term deployment along the border with Iraq. They said the Bush administration is drafting a new request that calls for 15,000 soldiers to be stationed in Turkey, down from the original proposal of about 130,000.

Turkey and the United States have been discussing preparations for a war against Iraq. A U.S. delegation has been inspecting six Turkish military bases to check for their suitability for such U.S. aircraft as the B-2 bomber and the F-117 stealth fighter-jet.

The United States has expressed readiness to invest up to $500 million to upgrade the military bases.

Turkish government sources identified some of the bases as Batman, Corlu, Diyarbakir, Malatya-Erhac and Mus as well as the ports at Mersin and Iskenderun. Both ports are located along the Mediterreanean.

Ankara is expected to relay its decision on U.S. troop deployment next week during the visit by Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Myers is scheduled to arrive in Ankara over the weekend and leave Turkey on Monday. Meanwhile, Turkey has concluded that its cities are endangered by Iraqi medium-range missiles.

Turkish officials said the military and intelligence services have been discussing Iraq's missile capabilities with Britain and the United States. They said Ankara has concluded that Iraqi missiles could strike as many as 20 cities in Turkey.

Ankara, as its NATO allies, remains uncertain of Iraq's missile capabilities. A Turkish intelligence report asserts that Iraq has between 12 and 25 Scud-class medium-range Al Hussein missiles. The Al Hussein is said to have a range of 650 kilometers and struck Israel and Saudi Arabia during the 1991 Gulf war.

The report, relayed to the military and government, said Iraq could target cities in southern Turkey. It said Iraq has the capability to extend the range of the Al Hussein to 750 kilometers.

On Thursday, the United Nations reported the discovery of 11 empty 122 mm chemical warheads in an Iraqi ammunition storage area constructed in the late 1990s and located 120 kilometers south of Baghdad. UN officials said the warheads were in excellent condition and similar to the ones imported by Iraq during the late 1980s.

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