- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2003

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell yesterday held out some hope that Turkey would still allow U.S. forces to use its bases and airspace in any invasion of Iraq, even though the country's parliament already has denied those requests.
Interviewed on "Fox News Sunday," Mr. Powell said he has met with incoming Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and other Turkish officials, and they have told him they plan to resubmit the failed legislative package to their parliament.
Asked if this means U.S. troops might be deployed in Iraq through Turkey, Mr. Powell said: "I wouldn't eliminate any of the options that are on the table right now. A lot depends on whether Mr. Erdogan feels he can get it through his parliament. And he has to make that political judgment."
The secretary acknowledged "it remains to be seen" whether the legislative proposal returns to parliament in a "timely manner" in Ankara. At a summit in the Azores yesterday, President Bush said today is the last day for diplomacy to persuade Saddam Hussein to destroy his weapons of mass destruction.
On March 1, the Turkish parliament stunned Washington when it rejected U.S. plans to base up to 62,000 American combat troops, 255 warplanes and 65 helicopters on Turkish soil with a view to opening a northern front in any war against Iraq.
The United States had promised Turkey $15 billion in financial aid to soften the impact of the war on the Turkish economy. U.S. officials said last week the financial aid offered has been withdrawn and Mr. Powell did not discuss money yesterday.
On Fox, Mr. Powell praised both Mr. Erdogan, who is expected to become prime minister later this week, and outgoing Prime Minister Abdullah Gul, for being willing to take the proposal to the parliament, despite its political risks.
In an interview on Abc's's "This Week," Mr. Powell said he met Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Gul a few weeks ago and learned they are still "trying to do everything they can to get that package through."
When host George Stephanopoulos said he understands it could "take as long as a week" for the legislation to be resubmitted, Mr. Powell said he has heard that time frame as well.
Asked whether that would be in time, Mr. Powell said "we would rather it have been a couple of weeks ago," but said Mr. Erdogan is showing political courage by trying again "when he's just putting the government together, getting his vote of confidence in place."
Turkey has worried that a war with Iraq could lead the Kurds in northern Iraq to declare an independent state, and that they could inspire Turkey's Kurds to follow suit.
Mr. Powell said the situation in northern Iraq is "volatile," and that it would be "better if there are no Turkish forces" in that area if there is a war and Turkish troops participate.

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