- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 6, 2003

ISTANBUL Turkey's parliament is expected today to authorize the United States to begin renovating Turkish military bases, but it could hold off for more than a week on whether to allow U.S. combat troops to enter the country for an attack on neighboring Iraq.
Turkey's Cabinet ministers late yesterday gave their consent to the bill to upgrade military bases, ports and other facilities and sent it to parliament for approval, the Anatolia news agency reported. The authorization would be valid for three months.
Diplomats have said that if the United States is not allowed to use Turkish bases, its war plans for Iraq could be disrupted.
A legislator from Prime Minister Abdullah Gul's Justice and Development Party said the authorization of renovating the bases was "very, very likely."
But the legislator, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said a separate vote to admit U.S. troops was not likely before Feb. 18, at the end of a weeklong Islamic holiday.
Mr. Gul has been facing intense U.S. pressure to allow American troops to open a northern front against Iraq, and it is not clear if the piecemeal approval will satisfy Washington.
President Bush's envoy to the Iraqi opposition, Zalmay Khalilzad, was in Ankara yesterday meeting with government officials. Mr. Gul and Vice President Richard B. Cheney spoke Tuesday night to discuss the U.S. base request.
Mr. Cheney asked Mr. Gul to send the draft regarding U.S. troops to parliament today and told him Turkey needed to "hurry up," the Hurriyet newspaper reported. A diplomat confirmed that Mr. Cheney urged Turkey to move quickly.
The United States has said it is looking to spend up to several hundred million dollars to expand Turkish bases that would be used in an Iraq war.
Turks overwhelmingly oppose a war in Iraq, and Turkish leaders have been trying to delay approving the U.S. requests.
Turkey has repeatedly said it would move its forces into Iraq if there is a war, with the aim of maintaining stability in the region and preventing a flood of refugees.
Many analysts believe the main mission of the soldiers would be to prevent the creation of a Kurdish state in northern Iraq if the central government in Baghdad collapses.

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