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Turkey's parliament approves U.S. overflights

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Friday, March 21, 2003

ANKARA 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.

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