ANKARA Ñ Turkey has approved a U.S. request for its warplanes to fly
over the country toward combat missions in neighboring Iraq.
Turkey's parliament, in a vote of 332-202, approved the government
request in what officials termed was a scaled-down version of U.S.
requirements for Ankara's cooperation in the war against Iraq. Under the
request, U.S. warplanes on missions to bomb Iraq could not land in Turkish
bases, including Incerlik.
The planes would also not be allowed to refuel in Turkish air space.
Ankara's decision limited the U.S. use of Turkish air space to six months, Middle East Newsline reported.
"The only particular point reached with the United States is the
military issues," Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul said. "Those are the
issues which could be concluded."
After the vote, Turkish and U.S. officials discussed implementing the
parliamentary decision. U.S. officials stressed that the permission for
overflight rights did not fulfill the terms of a U.S. offer for a $15
billion compensation package to Ankara.
"First, we have requested from NATO allies overflight rights,"
Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman said. "And in no
case have we offered any monetary or any other assistance for those
overflight rights. We believe, as some have said, that those are things that
allies do for one another."
Parliament also voted to send thousands of Turkish troops to northern
Iraq. An estimated 70,000 Turkish troops are reported deployed along the
southern border with Iraq.
In Athens, Greece has placed its military and intelligence services on
high alert. Greek authorities have increased security around Western
embassies. They include the British, Israeli and U.S. embassies.
Greece has also increased patrols at airports in response to an alert of
an Islamic insurgency attack. Officials said about 200 people, most of them
Arab nationals, have been placed under surveillance.
Border security has also been increased to prevent a wave of Iraqi
refugees heading toward Western Europe.
Athens has also increased coast guard and navy patrols in the Aegean
Sea. Officials said authorities are expecting boats filled with illegal
migrants trying to enter Greek territorial waters.
"We are keeping calm, but we are obliged to take all necessary measures
to handle whatever consequences might arise due to the developments," Greek
minister George Paschalidis said.