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Turkish Parliament Approves Troop Deployment

The Turkish Parliament has overwhelmingly approved a bill granting the government authority to deploy Turkish troops outside the country. The move comes amid widespread news reports that the Bush administration has asked Turkey to contribute troops to the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism.

More than 400 Turkish lawmakers attended what proved to be a stormy session in the 550-member chamber.

The vote was 319-101 favoring the government request to contribute troops to the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism. The bill also authorizes Turkey's coalition government, led by Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, to allow foreign troops to be based in Turkey.

Turkey says it is also sending a military liaison team to the United States to coordinate Ankara's anti-terrorism efforts with Washington. Members of Turkey's pro-Islamic opposition took turns attacking the legislation. They said Mr. Ecevit had failed to explain - either to the Parliament or the nation - why he was seeking what they said was virtually unfettered authority to deploy Turkish troops overseas, and what it was that the United States was asking of Turkey.

Many lawmakers pointed to recent public opinion polls, which show that most Turks are strongly opposed to Turkey's involvement in the bombing of Taleban and suspected terrorist targets in Afghanistan.

Turkey is NATO's sole majority-Muslim member. Analysts say its participation in the military campaign against the Taleban and suspected terrorist forces in Afghanistan would help bolster U.S. efforts to show the Muslim world that the offensive is not targeting Muslims, but terrorists and their supporters.

Prime Minister Ecevit, who addressed the chamber, said there had been no U.S. request for the participation of Turkish troops. Earlier, the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, Robert Pearson also denied there had been a request for Turkish troops.

Turkey has already opened its airspace and bases to U.S. military planes. The Incirlik base in southern Turkey's Adana Province hosts U.S. and British warplanes, which monitor the no-fly zone over Kurdish controlled northern Iraq.

While offering support to Washington's war against global terrorism, the Turkish government remains firmly opposed to an attack against its southern neighbor, Iraq.