- The Washington Times - Monday, February 17, 2003

ANKARA, Turkey, Feb. 17 (UPI) — Turkey on Monday put off allowing U.S. troops to deploy in the country until bilateral talks on compensation are completed.

The government had been expected to send a motion to parliament on Tuesday that would have provided authorization for the deployment.

Diplomats in Ankara said the delay, announced by Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis, was bound to change U.S. plans to open a northern front in any attack on Iraq.

In Washington, analysts saw the delay as a serious setback for the Pentagon in quickly completing preparations for the possible invasion of Iraq. Northern Iraq, adjacent to Turkey and populated by Kurds and other peoples hostile to Saddam Hussein and his Baathist regime, offers strategic advantages on which U.S. forces may now not be able to draw fully.

On Monday, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, speaking on Turkish television, said that if Turkey did not permit deployment, U.S. warships waiting in the Mediterranean would be directed to the Persian Gulf.

Judging by what Turkish ministers said, a go-ahead needs parliamentary approval under the Turkish constitution. Also, the delay in completing an agreement was due to Ankara's desire to tie down Washington's guarantees.

Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin told reporters Turkey remembered past experiences and does not want them repeated, referring to promises at the time of the 1991 Gulf War that were not kept. A new list of Ankara's economic and military requirements was conveyed to Washington Monday, Sahin said.

Foreign Minister Yakis and Economy Minister Ali Babacan last week traveled to Washington to discuss how much economic aid the United States would provide. They also wanted written guarantees for the reimbursement of losses incurred by Turkey as a result of its cooperation in the widely expected war on Iraq.

Yakis said Monday Turkey has military and economic concerns that had to be addressed in order to convince the Turkish Grand National Assembly, as the parliament is known formally, to approve deployment of foreign troops on Turkish soil. Also Babacan said Monday that Turkey wanted "a clear, open precise document" addressing its requirements.

Polls have put popular opposition to a war at over 80 percent and thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets across Turkey almost every day.

However, the ruling Justice and Development Party, which has a wide majority in parliament, is expected to be able to obtain approval of a U.S. deployment.

Local press reports said Monday Turkey and the United States have already agreed on military issues, according to which Turkey would send up to 50,000 troops into northern Iraq to set up a buffer zone.

The Iraqi Kurds in whose homeland the Turkish forces would be stationed are deeply worried that Ankara might use its troops to attempt to curtail the autonomy the Kurds have enjoyed for the past 12 years since Saddam lost control there.

The number of U.S. troops would be around 50,000 to 55,000 under a U.S. commander and Turkish deputy commander.

The Turkish military earlier rejected placing their troops under direct U.S. command.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz told the United Press International Monday the United States cannot decide "who leads and rules Iraq."

"The U.S. administration is not listening to the world public opinion," Aziz said during a stopover in Damascus on his way to Baghdad from Italy where he saw Pope John Paul II. "It is an aggressive and arrogant administration," Aziz said.

(With reporting by Thana Imam in Damascus and Derk Kinnane Roelofsma in Washington.)

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