Obama said to back Turkey offer to invade Libya

Wednesday, March 2, 2011   E-Mail this story   Free Headline Alerts

ANKARA Turkey has offered to spearhead a NATO effort to overthrow the regime of Col. Moammar Gadhafi by invading Libya, but with strings attached.

Diplomatic sources said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan relayed a plan in which the Turkish Navy would send ships and troops to Libya. They said the plan called for the European Union to immediately accept Turkey as a member after the downfall of Gadhafi, Middle East Newsline reported.

"It was not clear if Turkey could actually do the job, but Erdogan did make this offer," a Western diplomat said.

The sources said the United States, particularly President Barack Obama, supported the Turkish proposal, believed to have also been endorsed by Saudi Arabia. Obama, regarded as a close ally of Erdogan, said Ankara deserves membership in the EU.

But Brussels appeared cold to the Turkish plan. The sources said French President Nicolas Sarkozy opposed the Erdogan proposal despite U.S. pressure.

"What Sarkozy said is unprintable, but basically that the United States is not a member of the EU and cannot dictate who should be a member," the diplomat said.

Ankara has used its Navy to help evacuate many of the 30,000-member Turkish community in Libya. Turkey has been a major investor in the North African country, particularly in the construction and infrastructure fields.

So far, neither the European Union nor the United States appears ready for a military operation against Gadhafi. On Feb. 28, however, the U.S. Defense Department said it would move troops and military assets near Libya as part of contingency plans against Gadhafi.

The sources said Sarkozy and other EU leaders regarded Erdogan's plan as a means to exploit the revolt in Libya. They said Sarkozy and others have become intractable opponents of Turkish membership in the EU, particularly given Ankara's pro-Islamic policies and support for Iran.

"The feeling is that Turkey is looking to become the Ottoman Empire, and most of Europe does not want to go through that history again," the diplomat said.

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