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EDITIONS
 Friday, 27 December, 2002, 17:47 GMT
US offers money for Turkish war help
Anti-war demonstration in Ankara
There is strong opposition to a war in Turkey
US officials have arrived in Turkey to convince the key Nato ally that Washington will support its economy if there is a war in neighbouring Iraq.

The US needs Turkey's Nato air force bases for a major assault on Iraq, but has asked to use its ports and station 80,000 troops on its soil for a land invasion, local newspaper reports say.

We and government officials say Turkey will not clarify its decision (on possible military action against Iraq) without a UN Security Council resolution

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Ruling party leader
Turkey, which is struggling to recover from a prolonged recession, has warned a war with Iraq would be disastrous, especially if the conflict escalates beyond its borders and there is an influx of refugees.

To minimize damage to its economy, Turkey has asked for US help, which the daily Hurriyet newspaper estimates at $28bn.

The visit by John Taylor, the US Treasury Department's undersecretary for international affairs, and undersecretary of State Marc Grossman, coincides with a meeting of the Turkish National Security Council, which decides on what role Turkey will play in a war.

Turkish resentment

Turkey is bitter after the US failed to fulfil a promise of financial help for support for the 1991 Gulf War, during which the US Air Force launched strikes on Iraq from Turkish bases.

Incirlik base
The Incirlik base is crucial for a US attack
The country claims it has lost about $40bn in trade revenues over the past decade because of that conflict.

Despite strong public opposition to a war, Turkey does not want to be alienated by its most powerful ally.

Washington is credited with being the main supporter of Turkey's $16bn International Monetary Fund rescue programme.

Nato's only Islamic member is one of the IMF's biggest borrowers, and the US is the lender's biggest shareholder.

Not convinced

The head of the ruling Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP) has said another United Nations resolution would be need before Turkey supported a war.

John Taylor, the US Treasury Department's undersecretary (l) points at Turkey's Finance Minister Ali Babacan (r)
John Taylor tries to convince Turkey's Finance Minister Ali Babacan
"We and government officials say Turkey will not clarify its decision (on possible military action against Iraq) without a UN Security Council resolution," said Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

He also indicated that US claims that Iraq holds weapons of mass destruction were not convincing.

"The report of the UN inspectors on weapons of mass destruction is important to us," Mr Erdogan said, referring to a report due to be presented to the Security Council on 27 January.

See also:

27 Dec 02 | Middle East
27 Dec 02 | Europe
04 Nov 02 | Business
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