- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 8, 2003

ANKARA, Turkey, Jan. 8 (UPI) — Turkey Wednesday agreed in principle to allow U.S. reconnaissance flights to use Turkish air space in a possible war against Iraq, in a sign that its earlier resistance may be softening.

But Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Yusuf Buluc stressed that details were still being worked out and "the U.S. reconnaissance operation will be limited."

Washington has strongly pressed Turkey to make Turkish military facilities available to fellow NATO allies. But the new Islamic-based government in Ankara has publicly opposed a military operation against Iraq, and has deferred making a decision on the level of cooperation with the United States and its allies at least until the U.N. weapons inspectors have completed their search in Iraq for stocks of chemical and biological weapons and weapons of mass destruction.

A detailed report by the inspectors will be sent to the United Nations at the end of January.

Buluc denied press reports that U.S.-made U-2 spy planes have already started flying over Turkish space. But the real sticking point for the Turks has been the deployment of U.S. or other ground troops on Turkish soil.

British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon is the latest in a steady stream of senior British and U.S. officials to lobby the Turks to allow allied troops to use Turkish bases as a staging point for an attack on Iraq. Hoon arrived Wednesday in Ankara to lobby the Turks to receive British troops.

After meetings with his counterpart Vecdi Gonul and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, Hoon was non-committal, but Turkish sources said Ankara has objected the deployment of British troops citing "historical reasons."

The British Broadcast Corp. quoted the head of the Turkish parliament's foreign affairs committee, Mehmet Dulger, as even opposing stationing British troops in the neighboring Kurdish-held part of Northern Iraq. Dulger was quoted as saying Turkey's historic sensitivities stemmed from Britain's role in breaking up the Ottoman Empire after World War I and capturing lands, including Iraq, that belonged to the Ottoman Empire.

"History should not become a fixation," Hoon protested in an interview with the one of the Ankara television channels. "We should learn lessons from history so as not to repeat the mistakes."

Since the 1991 Gulf War, Turkey has allowed U.S. and British warplanes at the southern airbase at Incirlik to maintain the no-fly zone in northern Iraq to protect Iraqi Kurds.

But there is widespread public opposition to the war against Saddam Hussein. According to recent polls almost 90 percent of the Turkish public is against any Turkish involvement. Thousands attended an anti-war rally in Istanbul last weekend, in which British and U.S. flags were burned.

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