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Turkish Decision Could Complicate US War Plans - 2003-03-04


The Bush administration said Monday the Turkish parliament's refusal to allow the basing of U.S. troops on Turkish territory would not affect the outcome of a possible U.S.-led war with Iraq. But officials acknowledged the unexpected parliamentary decision will complicate military planning.

Administration officials concede that Saturday's vote in Ankara came as a surprise given the painstaking U.S.-Turkish consultations that preceded it, including a deal that would have provided Turkey with billions of dollars in new aid to offset the costs of war. However they insist that the parliamentary outcome, while complicating military planning, would not cripple those preparations and that the United States would be victorious in a conflict with or without Turkish help. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said if President Bush authorized military action, access to Iraq through Turkey would not be the only option for U.S. commanders. "There's no question that the Turkish approach would have been a preferable approach, but other approaches are available. There are other options from a military point of view," he said. "And the President has every confidence that those other options will indeed be militarily successful, if he so exercises them."

The United States has had a flotilla of cargo ships carrying tanks and other equipment waiting off the Turkish coast in anticipation of a parliamentary vote allowing a deployment on Turkish soil. But the authorizing legislation failed to get required absolute majority and administration officials are not optimistic about an early attempt by Prime Minister Abdullah Gul to get a second vote to change the outcome.

A senior State Department official said in a phone conversation with Secretary of State Colin Powell Sunday, Mr. Gul "didn't venture a guess" as to whether Saturday's vote could be overturned.

The State Department meanwhile made it clear that the bulk of the multi-billion dollar aid package negotiated for Turkey will not be delivered if Saturday's vote does stand. Spokesman Richard Boucher said the aid was negotiated specifically to offset, for Turkey, the costs of being part of a war effort. "Most of it was predicated on helping Turkey meet the costs of involvement, the direct costs or the consequences, and therefore I'd guess I'd have to say that much of that would not occur if there's not direct involvement by Turkey."

Mr. Boucher said the United States' "fundamental view" of Turkey as an important ally is unchanged, and that the Bush administration will continue to support the Ankara government's economic program and cooperation with international financial institutions.

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