U.S. withdrawing fighter-jets from Turkey's Incerlik

Monday, March 31, 2003

ANKARA The United States is pulling fighter-jets out of Turkey after Ankara continues to refues cooperations in the formation of a northern front in the war against Iraq.

Turkish officials said the U.S. military has decided to redeploy 50 fighter-jets based in the Incerlik air force base near the Iraqi border.

Incerlik had been designated by the United States as a launching pad for air strikes on the regime of President Saddam Hussein.

Ankara, however, has refused to allow U.S. fighter-jets to use Turkish bases for attacks on Iraq, Middle East Newsline reported. Instead, Turkey has allowed use of its air space for U.S. warplanes on their way to Iraq.

So far, several dozen U.S. planes have already been pulled out of Turkey. The officials said many of them have flown to Cyprus, where Britain maintains a large air force base.

On Sunday, Turkish protesters tried to block a convoy of U.S. armored and supply vehicles from the port of Mardin to Incerlik. The protesters hurled stones, damaged the vehicles and called on U.S. soldiers to leave the country.

The United States has deployed about 5,000 U.S. forces in northern Iraq. The troops were flown on C-17 military cargo planes to refurbished airports in northern Iraq.

At the same time, Turkey has overseen the deployment of two additional PAC-2 missile defense batteries. The batteries were deployed at Incerlik, which now has four Patriot systems.

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