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'Turkey Remains Highly Cooperative,' says Top US General

The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff says the United States is not impatient with Turkey's position on war with Iraq, as news reports have suggested.

Speaking to reporters after meeting with senior Turkish military officials, General Richard Myers declined to specify what contribution, if any, the United States is seeking from Turkey in a war against Iraq. He stressed that Turkey remains highly cooperative in its relations with Washington.

"I am probably leaving Ankara, as many Americans have done in the past, very sure of our strategic partnership and very sure of the vision that we both have in terms of what we want for the region, and that is peace and stability," General Myers said.

Although war preparations are continuing, General Myers said the Bush administration believes war against Iraq is not inevitable.

Turkey is the NATO military alliance's only predominantly Muslim member. The country played a key role in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, when it opened its bases to U.S. and British warplanes conducting bombing raids against Iraqi targets.

Turkey is expected to open those bases once again. A team of some 150 U.S. military technicians is currently surveying Turkish bases and ports to assess their possible use in a new war against Iraq.

But Turkey is deeply reluctant to allow the deployment of U.S. ground troops on its soil. Turkish leaders say that under Turkish law, the parliament needs to approve the deployment of foreign troops.

In addition, Turkish public opinion is overwhelmingly against the presence of U.S ground troops in the country, and most Turks are firmly opposed to a war with Iraq.

Turkish officials confirm that the United States is seeking to base 15- 20,000 ground troops in Turkey. The U.S. troops would transit through Turkish territory to open a northern front against Iraqi forces in Kurdish controlled northern Iraq. Turkey says it cannot commit itself to war against Iraq unless the U.N. Security Council passes a resolution specifically authorizing the use of force.