U.S. renews request for bases in Turkey

Friday, March 28, 2003

ANKARA The United States is said to have renewed its request for the use of military bases in southern Turkey.

Turkish sources said the Bush administration relayed a request for the use of three Turkish military bases for the war against Iraq. They said the request has been discussed by Ankara and Washington.

The United States has also asked Turkey to ease its restrictions on the use of air bases and air space, Middle East Newsline reported. The sources said the request was renewed amid the failure to form an allied northern front in the war against Iraq.

Ankara has allowed U.S. aircraft to use Turkish air space. But parliament has banned U.S. military planes deployed in the war against Iraq to take off or land from Turkish bases, including Incerlik.

Turkish government sources said British and U.S. military aircraft that employ Turkish air space face major problems in mid-air refueling. As a result, the sources said, coalition aircraft have been making emergency landings at Turkish air force bases.

Ankara has allowed four U.S. tanker aircraft to refuel warplanes. But U.S. officials have argued that this is insufficient to refuel the large number of fighter-jets that daily fly missions to northern Iraq.

U.S. officials said the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Defense Department had arranged for the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division to move through Turkey and into northern Iraq. But Ankara opposed the move and the request was dropped.

"We wanted an armored thrust from the north, and the 4th Infantry Division's a powerful division," Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, vice director for operations on the Joint Staff, said on Wednesday. "It works from the south as well. In fact, it will be helpful wherever it comes in."

About 1,000 paratroopers from the U.S. Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade have been deployed in northern Iraq. They are expected to be joined by another 5,000 troops. But the force is regarded as too small to constitute a credible northern front in the battle for Baghdad.

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