Turkey yields to U.S. pressure; Erdogan calls for Gahdafi to step down

Friday, March 25, 2011   E-Mail this story   Free Headline Alerts

ANKARA — Turkey has prepared a flotilla of warships to help the NATO mission against Libya.

Turkey had been a leading opponent of the NATO mission in Libya. But officials acknowledged strong U.S. pressure for Ankara to join the operation against the Gadhafi regime.

"Those who run Libya must step down immediately to ward off looters," Turkish President Abdullah Gul said. "Remember Saddam [Hussein's] behavior and what has unfolded in Iraq. That might somehow occur again in Libya."

Officials said the Turkish Navy has been arranging for a naval mission that would patrol the Mediterranean Sea and stop weapons and other shipments to the regime of Libyan Col. Moammar Gadhafi. They said the flotilla would consist of five frigates and patrols boats as well as a diesel submarine.

"We informed the opposition about Turkey's Middle East policy, our vision and the background of our stance," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.

NATO has confirmed the Turkish proposal, which would not include a land operation. On March 24, parliament, including most of the opposition, approved the deployment plan.

"We are going through such important times that the steps that we'll take and the messages that we will give are very important for Turkey’s global influence," Davutoglu said.

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