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Last Updated:  Saturday, 15 March, 2003, 11:21 GMT
Turkey delays US troop decision
US troops in southern Turkish port of Iskenderun
The US has been eagerly awaiting a decision on troop deployment

New Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ruled out any immediate vote in parliament on the proposed deployment of American troops in the country.

He said a second vote on the US request for Turkey's support for military action against Iraq would not take place until next week.

"This is not on our agenda at the moment. All these are for after the vote of confidence," Mr Erdogan told reporters, the Turkish news agency Anatolia said.

A northern front is considered key by US military planners, who believe it would shorten any war and minimise casualties.

The motion would also allow Turkish troops to cross into northern Iraq in the event of war, to secure Kurdish areas and help manage the expected wave of refugees.

Correspondents say Washington has been eagerly awaiting the formation of the new government, in the hope that it will bring closer a decision to support its war plans.

The calling of an extraordinary session of parliament this weekend appears to have raised US hopes that the government was moving towards a second vote.

However, there is no such vote on the agenda and the session is expected to concentrate on putting the new government in place.

More debates

Mr Erdogan said there would be a cabinet meeting on Monday after which the government's programme would be read out in parliament.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Erdogan's government needs to be approved by parliament
That reading could happen on Tuesday or Wednesday, after which he added "there will be the process of debates and the vote of confidence".

A previous motion on the US deployment was narrowly rejected on 1 March, abruptly halting the preparations.

Turkey has negotiated a $15 billion compensation package from the US if the deployment goes ahead.

The country is currently suffering a severe economic downturn.

Prices for public transport, petrol and foods have risen sharply in recent days.

New taxes have been imposed on property and cars, prompting the World Bank to criticise the outgoing government for overburdening consumers.

War critics

But public opinion is not in favour of Turkey being used as a launch pad for the US-led war on Iraq.

The BBC's Nick Thorpe in Istanbul says many Turks are proud of their parliament's surprise decision not to support the move.

The stock markets however have plunged, amid fears that war will go ahead anyway and Turkey will lose the US money on offer.

Correspondents say Mr Erdogan, named as prime minister earlier this week, may not wish to be seen flouting public opinion or the will of parliament by pushing too hard for the deployment.

Demonstration in  Iskenderun
Public opinion is strongly against war
And the international furore over a UN resolution authorising the use of force could have an impact on the Turkish decision-making.

President Sezer announced weeks ago that no deployment could take place without a second UN Security Council resolution, as any military action would lack legitimacy without one.

Under the Turkish constitution, foreign troops may only be accepted and Turkish troops deployed abroad if the action has international legitimacy.

BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus says the Turkish military is thought to be eager to help the US but, at the political level, the Turks seem now to be raising additional concerns about the use of their air space in any conflict.

Ankara, he says, is holding out for assurances about its long-term strategic interests in the region and about the fate of the Turkmen minority in post-war Iraq.

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