- The Washington Times - Monday, March 3, 2003

WASHINGTON, March 3 (UPI) — The White House said it was reviewing options should Turkey's government continue to deny U.S. forces access to its military bases should it launch an offensive against Iraq.

"Turkey is reviewing its options, and the United States is doing the same. As a result of this vote, Turkey has gone back to look at it," said White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.

He said it was too soon to say what actions U.S. officials would take after the Turkish parliament rejected a proposal on Saturday that would have stationed some 60,000 American troops along the Iraqi-Turkish border. The measure received three votes fewer than was needed for approval.

The vote, following a lengthy, closed-door debate, was 264-251 with 19 abstentions.

Fleischer asserted President George W. Bush was confident that an assault on Iraq would be successful. He said that there was no question the use of Turkish bases would have been a "preferable approach," but said other options existed "from a military point of view."

He added: "The president has every confidence that those other options will, indeed, be militarily successful if he so exercises them."

The vote was a setback for U.S. efforts to move forward with a military offensive against Iraq, which officials say has refused to comply with a U.N. resolution to account for missing chemical and biological materials and destroy its al-Samoud 2 missiles.

Fleischer declined to say whether the Bush administration would continue to push to locate U.S. forces in Turkey or if officials were considering alternatives. Reports have indicated that the United States has offered Turkey a lucrative aid package in return for its cooperation.

The turn of events in Turkey comes as the United States waved off Iraq's destruction of al-Samoud 2 missiles, an effort to meet U.N. demands to disarm. Fleischer said Monday that the government has not seen immediate disarmament.

"We have seen nothing that the United Nations Security Council called for, except for, under pressure, Saddam Hussein finding things that he said he never had and apparently destroying small numbers of the things that he says he never possessed," Fleischer said.

A majority of Turkish citizens are opposed to military action against Iraq, but Fleischer said Bush believes disarming Saddam remains a "front and center issue" around the world.

"This is a threat that if Turkey and others don't deal with today, will only grow bigger, will grow worse, and will have to be dealt with some other day, because Saddam Hussein is not disarming.

"He continues to have weapons of mass destruction, and it's only a matter of time, as history has shown with Saddam Hussein, between now and when he actually uses them," Fleischer said.

The United States, Britain and Spain introduced a draft resolution last week at a meeting of the U.N. Security Council in New York. In the terse, carefully crafted one-line statement, the three nations declared that: "Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it in Res. 1441." Passed in November, Resolution 1441 allowed for the return of U.N. arms inspectors to Iraq and warned of "grave consequences" should Saddam fail to disarm.

U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said a vote in favor of the newest measure would be an "affirmation of the council's willingness to enforce its own resolution."

A vote on the new resolution is expected after inspectors issue a report on March 7. The White House said Bush was confident that the United Nations would vote to approve the resolution.

"Think about what it means to vote against that resolution. What it means to vote against it simply means that basically, it's a backing away from the terms of 1441. The president doesn't think that anybody would want to do that, but nevertheless, we'll find out," Fleischer said.

On Friday, chief U.N. arms inspector Hans Blix released his quarterly report on the Iraqi inspections. It stated that issues surrounding chemical and biological weapons remained "unresolved" because there was no documentation, physical evidence or testimony form individuals.

It stated that inspectors have not yet been able to obtain interviews with Iraqi scientists or others who would have knowledge about the nation's disarmament actions. While Iraqi officials have said it has encouraged scientists to participate in the interviews, no one has been willing to talk to U.N. officials without Iraqi oversight.

Blix on Friday called the promised destruction of al-Samoud 2 missiles "a very significant piece of real disarmament," while at the same time seeking clarification of what Baghdad meant by saying it accepts "in principle" the destruction directive.

But, asked if the proverbial glass was half full or half empty because of increased Iraqi disarmament activity, he said: "Well, it's a glass in which they poured more water."

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