Time's up: Cheney apppeal fails, aid offer to Turkey withdrawn

Sunday, March 16, 2003

The United States has withdrawn its offer of $15 billion to Turkey for the deployment of up to 62,000 American troops.

U.S. officials said the Bush administration has determined that Turkey failed to respond to the offer in time. They said Washington has implemented contingency plans that do not envision Turkey as a major participant in any northern front against Baghdad.

The officials said Turkey was warned several times over the last two weeks that the U.S. aid compensation package would be withdrawn. They said the decision to shelve the aid offer and reassess relations with Turkey took place on Thursday after Vice President Richard Cheney telephoned Turkey's new Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan with a final appeal for the deployment of U.S. troops. Officials said Erdogan remained noncommital.

The U.S. aid package to Turkey included $5 billion in grants to Ankara, Middle East Newsline reported. The rest of the package would be comprised of loan guarantees.

Over the weekend, the U.S. Defense Department ordered at least six naval vessels from the Turkish coast toward the Persian Gulf. Another 10 U.S. ships are still in the eastern Mediterranan, many of them with equipment from the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division.

The withdrawal of the U.S. aid package was part of a White House reassessment of military cooperation with Turkey, officials said. They said Washington now opposes any Turkish military operations in northern Iraq.

On Friday, U.S. presidential envoy Zalmay Khalilzad warned Turkish leaders that the administration would not cooperate with Turkey forces in northern Iraq. Turkey is said to have up to 20,000 troops in northern Iraq and plans to send another 60,000 soldiers.

U.S. officials did not rule out the offer of another, more modest, aid package. They said U.S. aid would be limited to a $300 million modernization project of Turkish military bases and ports, which are now receiving U.S. supplies and vehicles.

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