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Relations With US Still Good, says Senior Turkish Politician - 2003-03-02

The chairman of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party says relations with the United States are still good, despite the Turkish Parliament's rejection of a motion that would allow the deployment of 62,000 U.S. combat troops in the country.

Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkey's strategic relationship with the United States would continue as before and with "full dynamism." He said the partnership had not evolved in one day, nor would it end in one day.

He said the government would be examining alternatives. He declined to elaborate.

Turkish officials say an option under serious consideration is to introduce a fresh motion that would allow U.S. warplanes to use Turkish bases to hit Iraqi targets in a possible war. But they say it is unlikely that the government will press parliament further for the deployment of U.S. troops.

The parliament voted Saturday 264-250 with 19 abstentions in favor of stationing American troops. The abstentions meant the motion failed, because it lacked the simple majority of all members.

Despite fierce public opposition to a war against Iraq, the parliamentary rejection came as a surprise. The Bush administration had been counting on Turkish support to open a second front against Iraqi government forces in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, using Turkey as a launching pad. U.S. navy ships loaded with tons of equipment and thousands of troops have been waiting off Turkey's eastern Mediterranean shores for approval from the Turkish parliament.

At his news conference, Mr. Erdogan warned Iraq not use the Turkish parliament's decision as an excuse to slow down cooperation with U.N. weapons inspectors.