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U.S. loses patience as ships near Turkey can't unload troops

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Wednesday, February 19, 2003

ANKARA The United States has threatened to review its strategic relationship with Turkey unless Ankara immediately approves the deployment of tens of thousands of American troops now waiting on ships near Turkish ports.

The new U.S. approach was in reaction to yet another Turkish delay of a request by Washington for the deployment of up to 40,000 American troops in Turkey.

Turkey's parliament has not received a government request for U.S. troop deployment, Middle East Newsline reported. Officials said the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Gul will not ask for a parliamentary vote until negotiations over a U.S. compensation package with Turkey are completed.



"The United States has thousands of troops on ships waiting outside of Turkish ports and Ankara won't come to a decision," a Western diplomatic source said. "This situation is quickly coming to a head. It's a matter of hours and days."

[On Wednesday, NATO approved the deployment of early-warning aircraft, PAC-2 systems and NBC [nuclear-biological-chemical] response units to Turkey. The decision ended weeks of a stalemate over alliance help to Turkey.]

Turkish sources said the latest delay has infuriated the Bush administration. They said Washington is threatening to review its strategic relations with Ankara unless it quickly decides to allow U.S. combat troops in the country.

"If parliament doesn't pass the proposal, we will review our relations and they could suffer enormous damage," the Ankara-based Hurriyet daily quoted a U.S. official in Washington as saying. "We wouldn't forget such a thing." On Tuesday, the Gul government relayed to U.S. ambassador Robert Pearson a new proposal for a compensation package for Turkey. Ankara was said to have asked for up to $25 billion in economic and military aid to compensate for losses incurring from a war against Iraq. The Sabah daily reported that the Turkish request would include $10 billion in grants.

In contrast, the United States is said to have offered no more than $4 billion in grants, with another $8 billion loan guarantees. Washington is expected to respond to the latest Turkish proposal by early Thursday.

"The other side must meet our demands, and if they do, then we shall see," said Recep Tayyip Erdogan, head of the ruling Justice and Development Party and regarded as the leading civilian authority in Turkey. "After this is finalized, the authorization will come to parliament."

Turkish President Ahmet Sezer said his country could not allow the deployment of foreign troops without a UN decision. He cited Turkey's constitution, which restricts the entry of foreign troops.

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