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Ankara Moves to Allow 62,000 US Troops in Turkey - 2003-02-25

Turkey's government has presented a bill to the parliament seeking authorization for the basing of some 62,000 U.S. troops in Turkey for a possible war against Iraq.

The government sent the proposal to parliament even though it has not reached final agreement with the United States on the terms of the deployment.

Turkey has been demanding billions of dollars in grants and loans in exchange for its support in a war against Iraq. It is also demanding the right to put in tens of thousands of its own troops in northern Iraq to block any moves by the Iraqi Kurds to form their own independent state.

Agreement on both issues has largely been reached, but officials say the terms are not yet final.

Partly for that reason, the Turkish parliament is not expected to take up the issue until Wednesday, at the earliest. Turkey wants clarification on the role its troops in Northern Iraq will be allowed to play, and some reports say the financial terms are also not fully settled.

The two main Iraqi Kurdish factions controlling northern Iraq have voiced strong opposition to a Turkish troop presence, saying they will resist Turkish forces militarily if need be. Analyts say the challenge facing the Bush Adminstration is just how to bridge differences between the Turks and the Kurds, both key allies in any eventual campaign to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Talks between the United States and Turkey have been dragging on for over 11 months now. Turkish officials say they are hopeful that a final deal can be reached as early as Wednesday, and that Parliament will approve the bill the same day.