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Bush Discusses NATO Dispute With Turkey's Foreign Minister - 2003-02-15

President Bush met Friday with Turkish Foreign Minister Yasir Yakis to discuss Turkey's request for NATO assistance if there is war in neighboring Iraq.

France, Germany and Belgium oppose the move because they say it would make it harder to find a peaceful solution to the dispute over Iraq's suspected weapons of mass destruction.

Foreign Minister Yakis says he expects NATO allies will come to Turkey's defense if the country is attacked by Iraq. U.S. troops are already in Turkey preparing for the possible use of force, and Bush administration officials say they are prepared to offer unilateral assistance to Turkey if some NATO members continue to block the move.

The alliance this week delayed action on planning for that possible military support because Germany, France, and Belgium want to wait until the U.N. Security Council decides how to resolve the Iraqi crisis.

Those countries say the search for a diplomatic solution must come before sending military equipment to Turkey.

Following his White House meeting with President Bush, Mr. Yakis told reporters that they also discussed possible U.S. economic assistance for Turkey to counter the economic impact of regional instability if force is used to disarm Iraq.