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Monday, 17 February, 2003, 10:51 GMT
Nato envoys break deadlock
Dutch Army convoy carrying Patriot anti-missile systems to Turkey
The Dutch are already sending aid to Turkey
The Nato alliance has resolved its internal disagreement over American planning for a war against Iraq.

Nato Secretary General George Robertson said the 18 members of the organisation's defence planning committee had agreed on the deployment of military defences in Turkey.

Lord Robertson
Alliance solidarity has prevailed - we have been able collectively to overcome the impasse

Lord Robertson
Nato secretary general

France, Germany and Belgium had been blocking the move, saying it would imply that war with Iraq is inevitable.

The announcement came a few hours before the start of an emergency summit of European Union leaders - also aimed at resolving differences over Iraq.

During Sunday's Nato meeting, Germany and Belgium dropped their objections to extending immediate assistance to Turkey.

France, which is not represented on the committee, did not take part in the discussions.

The French pulled out of Nato's military structures in 1966, and participate only in political consultations.

Lord Robertson said committee members now agreed to allow military planners to begin work on helping Turkey.

Ankara has requested the deployment of Awacs surveillance planes, anti-missiles batteries and anti-chemical warfare units, to protect itself in the event of a US-led war with Iraq.

"Alliance solidarity has prevailed," Lord Robertson said on Sunday. "We have been able collectively to overcome the impasse."

'Last resort'

The Nato secretary general stressed that the assistance to Turkey would be purely defensive.

A US navy plane captain sits on the wing of an F/A-18 Hornet aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln,
The US military build-up continues in the Gulf

The US has said the 19-member alliance is obliged under its treaty to provide military support to Turkey, the only member state which borders directly on Iraq.

But France, which opposes quick military action against Iraq, told its allies that this could prejudice the United Nations Security Council debate on the issue.

Differences between Western powers over Iraq are also expected to be the focus of Monday's EU summit in Brussels.

Britain, Spain and Italy have expressed support for the US, while others are counselling caution.

After the announcement of Sunday's breakthrough at Nato, France, Germany, and Belgium said in a statement that the agreement did not "in any way prejudge ongoing efforts" to resolve the crisis through the UN.

The three countries, "underline that the use of force can only the last resort and that all options (...) have as yet been fully exploited," the statement adds.

The BBC's Tim Franks in Brussels no one believes that by the end of Monday any leader will have shifted his stance on Iraq.

At some point, our correspondent adds, EU countries will have to decide whether and how they can salvage the broken dream of a common European foreign policy.

Dampened expectations

The Nato deal opens the way for the alliance to extend formal assistance to Turkey.

Anti-war demonstration is Istanbul, 16 February
Most Turks oppose military action against Iraq

The Netherlands has already agreed to ship Patriot anti-missile batteries.

The US is hoping that Ankara will allow at least one army division to be stationed there in the run-up to possible military action.

But Turkey says the US should not expect immediate permission to deploy tens of thousands of troops on its soil.

Senior Turkish officials meeting on Sunday failed to set a date for parliament to vote on the issue.

"America may have expectations of Turkey as it does of other countries - but we have not yet decided on a date to deal with the proposal," Deputy Prime Minister Abdullatif Sener said after the meeting.

Turkish opinion is overwhelmingly opposed to any war with Iraq.

The BBC's Helen Callaghan
"After a day of talking NATO finally reached a consensus"
Yves Brodeur, NATO spokesperson
"It's been a terribly difficult week"

Key stories





See also:

17 Feb 03 | Middle East
16 Feb 03 | Americas
16 Feb 03 | Middle East
12 Feb 03 | Media reports
11 Feb 03 | Europe
10 Feb 03 | Europe
17 Feb 03 | Middle East
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