- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 9, 2002

NICOSIA, Cyprus Turkey is prepared to cooperate in military action against Iraq but expects the United States to compensate it economically and politically, according to diplomatic reports.

In what is regarded as a preliminary measure before a U.S. attack on Iraq, the Turkish General Staff has told its Second Army near Iraq's border to "check the level of readiness" of its component forces.

Western diplomats say Turkish military leaders want to determine whether the army's headquarters in Malatya needs to be beefed up with additional forces and heavy weapons.

According to the Turkish daily Milliyet, Turkey believes the cost of remaining outside the planned U.S. intervention would be "greater than supporting it."

Another newspaper, the English-language Turkish Daily News, wrote: "The United States is going to hit Iraq. Turkey has no choice. It is involved in this business whether it wants to be or not."

Negotiations between Ankara and Washington have not reached the final stages, diplomats say, but preliminary Turkish estimates put the cost to Turkey at $150 billion over the next 12 years. The sum includes the impact of higher oil prices and the expected drop in tourist revenues and of foreign investments in the event of hostilities.

Turkish Foreign Minister Sukru Sina Gurel claims Turkey's support for the 1991 Gulf war cost it $100 billion.

According to Istanbul's Vatan, a popular center-right daily, "Contacts between Ankara and Washington at the civilian and military levels have been going on for months," and the United States "has allayed Turkish fears."

American guarantees, according to the newspaper, include "complete information on the timetable and extent" of the planned operation. Diplomats also reported that Turkey has requested U.S. support for its refusal to accept Greek terms for a federal solution on the divided island of Cyprus.

Diplomatic reports from Ankara say that Turkey will present "a package of its estimated losses" shortly. Elizabeth Jones, U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, visited Turkey last weekend to set up a framework for cooperation between the two countries.

The United States maintains a string of military bases in Turkey, including the strategic Incirlik base near Adana, from which reconnaissance flights over northern Iraq are conducted.

In contacts with U.S. officials, Turkey has pointed out that in the event of a major U.S. military thrust against Iraq, it expects a flow of refugees from northern Iraq eventually numbering 500,000 people.

The Turkish Red Crescent Society Kizilay the equivalent to the Red Cross has recommended that refugees be kept in Iraqi Kurdish territory rather than opening Turkey's borders as in the 1991 Gulf war.

Turkish authorities are studying the possibility of setting up refugee camps in four areas of northern Iraq, initially housing 80,000 people. If the number of refugees grows to half a million, Turkey estimates the cost of humanitarian aid will be $130 million.

Despite the generally cautious official Turkish statements, almost the entire political spectrum believes in the inevitability of Turkish participation in Washington's war on Iraq.

According to commentator Sami Kohen, writing in Milliyet, "Turkey does not want such a war because Turkey itself will be forced to pay one of the highest costs."

Among those costs he listed "the political cost resulting from upsetting balances throughout the Middle East."

So far, Turkey has ignored Iraq's warnings against supporting U.S. plans, some of them delivered last week by visiting Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.

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