Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says military action against Iraq is possible even without the use of bases in Turkey. But Mr. Rumsfeld believes Turkey will ultimately cooperate.
Mr. Rumsfeld will not say whether Turkey has been given a deadline to decide whether it will allow the deployment of thousands more U.S. troops for a possible invasion of Iraq.
But the Defense Secretary, speaking at the Pentagon, said such an attack can still be accomplished even without Turkish support. "Obviously, the more assistance one gets, the easier it is. The less assistance one gets, the more difficult it is. But nonetheless it's doable and there are alternatives," he said.
Still, Mr. Rumsfeld notes Turkey has been cooperating in U-S air patrols of the northern no-fly zone in Iraq. He believes Turkey will ultimately cooperate if there is a war with Iraq.
"They've been a longstanding ally and friend to NATO as well to the United States and they're cooperating at the present time with respect to Operation Northern Watch and I suspect that in one way or another, in a variety of ways probably, they'll end up cooperating in the event that force has to be used in Iraq," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
In an exchange with reporters, Mr. Rumsfeld brushed aside suggestions that anti-war protests worldwide are making preparations for an attack on Iraq more difficult.
He also dismissed suggestions his critical comments about countries opposed to war like France and Germany have made it more difficult to build support for a broad coalition against Baghdad.
Mr. Rumsfeld again makes clear that war is not inevitable, though he says time is running out. He says Saddam Hussein could still decide to cooperate with the United Nations or he and his supporters could go into exile or the Iraqi leader could be toppled.
But the U.S. Defense Secretary said there is no point in letting another dictator replace Saddam Hussein.
Mr. Rumsfeld was joined at a news briefing by General Richard Myers, Chairman of the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff. General Myers noted the arrival in Baghdad of some 100 volunteers to serve as human shields.
"It is a violation of the law of armed conflict to use non-combatants as a means of shielding potential military targets, even those people who may volunteer for this purpose," Mr. Myers said.
General Myers said such action could be treated as a war crime.