Originally created 02/26/03

Turkey, U.S. fail to agree on conditions of troop deployment



ANKARA, Turkey -- Turkey delayed a final vote Tuesday on U.S. plans to put tens of thousands of troops in the country after failing to conclude an agreement on the deployment.

The Cabinet endorsed the deployment on Monday, even though the government had not yet worked out all the details with the United States. Turkish and U.S. negotiators spent the rest of the day and much of the night trying to come to terms so parliament could vote on Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis announced an "agreement in principle" on the political and military conditions of the deployment. But he said differences remained over the U.S. economic aid package to Turkey.

The deputy chairman of the governing party, Reha Denemec, said a vote would not take place before Wednesday at the earliest.

Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin said the bill, which allows for the deployment of 62,000 troops, would be sent to parliament on Tuesday.

Turkish and U.S. officials have been in intense negotiations for weeks. Major sticking points have included a multibillion dollar package to compensate Turkey for potential losses due to a war, the command structure in northern Iraq where Turkey plans to deploy its own troops and the makeup of a post-war Iraq.

Marisa Lino, a top State Department official for military affairs, held talks with Turkish officials until 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, while U.S. ambassador to Turkey, Robert Pearson, left the foreign ministry at 2 a.m.

Washington has been pressing fellow NATO member Turkey to approve the deployment. U.S. ships are waiting off the coast of Turkey to unload supplies for the 4th Infantry Division, which would lead an armored thrust from Turkey into northern Iraq if there is a war.

Although the Turkish Cabinet approved the deployment, the government may have difficulty in persuading the deputies of the ruling Justice and Development Party to back the motion.

The party has a large majority in parliament, but many deputies have repeatedly spoken out against any war in Iraq.

Party leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan praised Monday's Cabinet decision, saying it was in "the best interest of the nation."

Although Erdogan said he would not order his party's legislators how to vote, he hinted that he believed the legislators would be persuaded to vote in favor.

"I believe you will make the final decision and take your steps without the need for a group decision," Erdogan said in an address to party deputies.

But Prime Minister Abdullah Gul had trouble convincing his own Cabinet members Monday. Government spokesman Abdullatif Sener said that many ministers had reservations, but "in the end, the ministers unanimously endorsed to send it to parliament."

Deputy Prime Minister Ertugrul Yalcinbayir said there would be benefits if the authorization was not approved.

"If it is not approved democracy would be strengthened," Yalcinbayir said without elaborating.

The bill also would authorize Turkish troops to enter northern Iraq in case of war - a plan that is raising tensions with Iraqi Kurds who control an autonomous zone in the north of the country.

Turkey fears that Iraq could fragment if there is a war, with Kurds declaring an independent state. That, Turks fears, could encourage Turkey's Kurdish minority.