- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 2, 2003

ANKARA, Turkey, March 2 (UPI) — The leader of Turkey's ruling party warned Sunday that Iraq should not misread the parliament's rejection of a U.S. request to position troops in Turkey and should increase efforts to adhere to U.N. mandates.

Tayyip Erdogan, leader of AK party, met with the group's executive board met to asses the steps to be taken after Saturday's vote in parliament. The general tendency was reported as to wait until the second U.N. resolution on Iraq and not to immediately draw up another resolution for the parliament's consideration in the coming days.

"At this moment the mistake that the Iraqi administration would do to misunderstand the parliament's decision and to slow down the cooperation with the U.N, " Erdogan said.

"On the contrary, Iraq should read the message carefully and speed up its cooperation under more active, transparent and intensive way."

"There are always alternatives for every problem and the government is ready to bring in the best appropriate alternative in the light of the parliament's democratic decision of Saturday," Erdogan said.

However, he added, "Every alternative carries cost of its own."

The vote in the assembly showed 264 favoring the measure to station up to 62,000 U.S. combat troops in Turkey and 250 opposed with 19 abstentions. Although votes cast were more than the opposed the resolution failed to gain simple majority — 276 votes — needed for passage in the 550-seat Assembly.

The rejection, although a setback for Washington which was planning to open a northern front to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, was welcomed in many parts of the country. More than 90 percent of Turks oppose a U.S.-led war on Iraq, polls show.

Erdogan indicated that part of the reason for rejection was the feeling created in the media that Turkey's pride was challenged.

Touching on speculation that the ties with the U.S was strained after the voting, Erdogan said, "Our strategic alignment and cooperation with the U.S. are not made up in one day and therefore it would not be severed in one day,"

The cooperation with the United States will continue with the same dynamism, he said.

Political analysis said the U.S. would continue using the Incirlik Air Base in the south even if Ankara rejected altogether the cooperation with the United States on any war in Iraq, because the issue came under an earlier agreement Washington.

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