Turkey allows in U.S. Hummers, Powell offers limited aid

Friday, April 4, 2003

ANKARA The United States has offered Turkey a new aid package in exchange for allowing the passage of military equipment and other supplies for coalition forces in northern Iraq.

For their part, Turkish officials said Ankara would allow the United States to bring more 200 M998 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, nicknamed the Hummer, through Turkey to Iraq. The United States has also deployed the light combat vehicle in Afghanistan.

"A total of 204 unarmed Hummers, which were brought to Turkey for site preparation, have been transferred to northern Iraq over the last few days," the Turkish military General Staff said in a statement. "There have not been any weapons or equipment transferred to the region."

Turkish officials said the aid package was relayed to Ankara during the visit by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Middle East Newsline reported. Powell held talks on Tuesday and Wednesday with civilian and military leaders on increased Turkish cooperation with the U.S.-led war against Iraq.

Powell, officials said, appealed to his hosts to allow U.S. warplanes on missions from and to Iraq to land in Turkish military bases. In addition, the U.S. secretary also urged Ankara to approve a supply line through Turkey for coalition forces in northern Iraq as well as the stationing of a military unit to assess developments in the region.

The United States did not ask Turkey for the deployment of a large amount of troops to bolster a northern front against the Iraqi regime. Instead, Powell said, a northern front is being based on special forces and airborne units.

"The northern option has changed shape," Powell said. "Instead of using the [U.S. Army] 4th Division for that purpose, we have put special forces teams into the north, and the 173rd Airborne Brigade. Whether other forces might at some point be introduced or not, or they'll be coming up from the south, I will leave to the military commanders to decide. We are just now executing the northern option, that part of the campaign, in a different way than had originally been planned."

"Our principal area of discussion today had to do with supplies food, fuel, other kinds of supplies that might go in," Powell said.

On Thursday, Turkish newspapers reported that 30 Turkish trucks carried U.S. military vehicles and equipment into northern Iraq. The reports said the U.S. military supplies reached an air base in Irbil, 150 kilometers south of the Turkish border.

Officials also said Ankara formally agreed to allow the landing of U.S. military planes in distress and the transfer of wounded soldiers to Turkey. The United States has been conducting around 200 air sorties a day through Turkey.

"We have been allowing airplanes in distress to land in Turkish airfields, and also for the evacuation of wounded people from the region to be brought in," Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said. "So, these are the assistance."

In exchange, the secretary said, the Bush administration would press for approval of more than $1 billion in U.S. orders in Turkey. This would include U.S. military purchases of $750 million in Turkey of a range of equipment and supplies required for forces in Iraq.

The Bush administration would also liberalize Turkish exports to the United States and help establish so-called Qualified Industrial Zones that would jointly produce textiles and other equipment for export. The U.S. military would also commit to purchasing Turkish textiles.

The Bush administration has already approved $1 billion in aid for Ankara and Congress has begun advancing the legislation. The House and Senate Appropriations committees are expected to discuss the aid package to Turkey as part of a more than $75 billion wartime spending bill.

So far, two leading House members have called for a reduction of the aid package to Turkey and establish "performance standards" for the NATO ally.

They are Henry Hyde, a Republican, and Tom Lantos, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.

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