- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2003

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) The charismatic leader of Turkey's governing party was designated prime minister yesterday, a step that likely boosts chances the United States will get permission to deploy troops in the country along Iraq's northern border.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who favors the deployment, hinted that he will reshuffle the Cabinet, but gave no indication if he would purge officials who opposed letting in the troops, as analysts have suggested he might do.
Mr. Erdogan is extremely popular in Turkey and is likely one of the few leaders with enough clout to unite his party and gain public support for allowing in the U.S. troops.
Earlier this month, parliament in Turkey, NATO's only majority-Muslim member, shocked the United States by rejecting the deployment of U.S. combat troops by just four votes. Mr. Erdogan has hinted that he will resubmit the resolution for approval, which could take another week.
Washington is pressing Turkey to act quickly. Ships carrying equipment for U.S. troops are already waiting off the Turkish coast.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard B. Myers told a Pentagon news conference yesterday that the United States would "have a northern option whether or not Turkey fully supports all our requests."
Prime Minister Abdullah Gul resigned earlier yesterday to make way for Mr. Erdogan, who won a parliamentary seat in by-elections Sunday. Mr. Gul will remain as a caretaker prime minister until President Ahmet Necdet Sezer approves Mr. Erdogan's Cabinet, a move that could happen as early as today.
Mr. Erdogan, a leader of Turkey's pro-Islamic movement when he was jailed, said he moderated his policies in prison.
His party considers itself conservative and no longer uses the word "Islamic" in its literature.

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