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Turkey Will Allow U.S. to Inspect Military Bases It Has Asked to Use

January 11, 2003|From Bloomberg News

ANKARA, Turkey — The Turkish government will allow the U.S. to inspect military bases that the Bush administration asked to use for a possible attack on neighboring Iraq, an official in Prime Minister Abdullah Gul's office said Friday.

The official, who asked not to be identified, said Gul signed an agreement Friday that allows U.S. officials to inspect seaports and military airfields.

A 150-member U.S. team will arrive Monday to begin a survey of three air bases and two ports in southeastern Turkey, the Turkish army said in a statement. The two countries agreed in principle on the inspections last month, but the U.S. had been worried about the lack of progress since then.

U.S. warplanes already use the Incirlik air base near Adana, Turkey, to patrol the northern "no-fly" zone in Iraq.

Turkey's decision to assist the U.S. followed American lobbying of European Union leaders on behalf of Turkey last month and warnings from diplomats that Washington's patience was wearing thin.

The Bush administration had helped push the European Union to promise Turkey's new government last month that talks on its bid for membership could start as soon as 2004 if the Turks satisfy European criteria on democracy and civil rights.

The Turkish government hasn't formally agreed to allow use of the bases, and has said it would be difficult for the country to support the deployment of U.S. ground troops in Turkey for a war.

Minister of State Ali Babacan said the two sides had agreed on the "structure" but not on the "magnitudes" of a financial package to offset any economic damage to Turkey from a conflict in Iraq.

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