ANKARA Ñ 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,
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.