U.S. activates supply lines from Turkey into northern Iraq

Monday, April 7, 2003

ANKARA The United States has launched a massive effort to transport supplies into northern Iraq from bases in neighboring Turkey.

The acceleration in the U.S. military logistics effort began on Wednesday as Secretary of State Colin Powell completed talks with Turkish civilian and military leaders on expanding Ankara's cooperation with the U.S.-led war against Iraq. During those talks Turkey agreed to serve as the logistics base for thousands of U.S. forces deployed in northern Iraq. These troops consist of special operations forces and the 173th Airborne Brigade.

Turkish sources said hundreds of U.S. light combat vehicles have been transported through Turkey and into northern Iraq, Middle East Newsline reported. They said the vehicles were transported by 30 Turkish lorries through the Habour border gate 150 kilometers south to a Kurdish-controlled air force base near Irbil.

At the same time, a convoy of 100 U.S. military trucks left Gaziantep airport in southeastern Anatolia to travel to NATO's Incirlik air base and Iskenderun harbor. Officials said the trucks are among hundreds of vehicles packed with U.S. military supplies that are being loaded daily from the Mediterranean port and sent to northern Iraq.

Turkish officials said Ankara has allowed U.S. aircraft to land in Turkish military bases, evacuate wounded U.S. soldiers from Iraq for NATO medical facilities and ensure a massive supply of food, fuel, munitions and equipment for coalition forces in northern Iraq. In return, officials said, Washington has offered Turkey a compensation package of more than $1 billion, which would include U.S. military purchases of Turkish goods.

The U.S. resupply of forces in northern Iraq will continue until the middle of the week, officials said. At that point, U.S. Central Command will have sufficient munitions, fuel and supplies for thousands of special operations forces and other troops.

The United States has also brought to Turkey several PAC-2 missile defense batteries. The semi-official Anatolia news agency said the batteries were transported on a Finnish ship and arrived at the southern Mediterranean port of Iskenderun.

Powell and his Turkish hosts were also said to have agreed on the future of northern Iraq. The sources said Washington reiterated its opposition to a Kurdish state, to the Kurdish capture of the oil-rich areas of Kirkuk and Mosul and to the supply of heavy weapons to Kurdish forces.

The United States was also said to have agreed to Turkish participation in any international effort to rebuild Iraq and coordinate in northern Iraq.

Powell agreed that Ankara would be allowed to respond to any resurgence of anti-Turkish Kurdish forces in northern Iraq, particularly the Kurdish Workers Party, which waged a war against Turkey from 1983-1998.

Under the series of understandings, Turkey will also be allowed to stop any flood of refugees coming from Iraq. The Bush administration also pledged to oppose any effort by Congress to reduce or impose restrictions on a proposal to grant Ankara $1 billion in aid.

In return, Turkey pledged not to send military forces into Iraq without U.S. coordination.

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