Discussions are continuing between the United States and Turkey over U.S. use of Turkish bases in the case of possible military action against neighboring Iraq.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says talks are continuing with Turkish officials over basing as many as 40,000 U.S. troops in the country to invade northern Iraq, if President Bush orders the military to force Iraq to disarm.
"This is a serious matter, and our good friend and ally Turkey is continuing to take it seriously," he said. "And we are continuing to talk to Turkish officials."
Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul said Friday that his government should reach a decision on Washington's request in the coming days. Turkish citizens overwhelmingly oppose military action against Iraq.
Turkish officials say they will not take the U.S. request to parliament until they have guarantees of financial aid from Washington and a commitment, in writing, that ethnic Kurds in northern Iraq will not be allowed to form their own state. That could re-ignite a separatist movement by Turkish Kurds.
Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis told CNN television that there are still some issues to be resolved in the political, military, and economic package, but he is optimistic an agreement can be reached.
Mr. Fleischer says the Bush administration has noted those statements, and is still waiting for an answer. If Turkey says "no," Mr. Fleischer says, that does not mean the country will not take part in a possible military campaign against Iraq, as U.S. jets are already stationed in the country.
"It is important to note that Turkey, of course, is a democracy, and Turkey is facing this matter as every good democracy should, which is full discussion with the views of the Turkish people in mind, with the security situation of Turkey in mind, with the economy of Turkey in mind," he said.
Most of the more than 150,000 U.S. troops in the region are south of Iraq in Kuwait and the Persian Gulf. U.S. officials say invading Iraq from the north would shorten a military operation and could save lives.