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Last Updated:  Monday, 17 March, 2003, 23:27 GMT
Urgent Turkish talks on US troops
US vehicle in Turkey
US troops are awaiting deployment
The Turkish Government is to urgently reconsider the question of allowing in US troops for a possible invasion of Iraq.

The announcement followed talks between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President Necdet Sezer and other senior political and military leaders in Ankara.

Turkey's cabinet will meet on Tuesday to consider a resolution allowing US forces to use Turkish territory for operations against Iraq, Deputy Prime Minister Abdullatif Sener said.

It is not yet clear when parliament would vote on such a resolution, but correspondents say it could happen this week.

Early this month parliament rejected a government proposal to allow in 62,000 US troops, who would be likely to open up a northern front in any war against Iraq.

A crucial parliamentary motion allowing the US deployment was not expected to be put to a second vote until the end of this week at the earliest, after a confidence vote.

But the BBC's Jonny Dymond in Istanbul says a snap vote on the issue now seems more likely than ever.

'Volatile situation'

Although most people in Turkey are against war, our correspondent says the country's political and military establishment is worried about alienating the US and concerned that it may not be able to move troops into northern Iraq.

The US has warned that without the deployment, a Turkish aid package - believed to be worth a total of $15bn in grants and loans - will not be paid.

Turkey also fears that the Kurdish groups which administer a swathe of northern Iraq may try to declare independence as Iraq's central authority crumbles.

The US has already warned Turkey not to launch its own invasion of northern Iraq.

"We have made it clear that the situation there [in northern Iraq] is volatile, and it would be better if there were no Turkish forces in [there] as part of any military operation that might take place," US Secretary of State Colin Powell told ABC's This Week.

"They are concerned about that area, but they also know that we don't want to see anything happen that would precipitate a crisis between Turkey and the Kurdish populations in northern Iraq."

Kurds inside Iraq could be expected to resist advancing Turkish troops, and Ankara fears that unrest could spill over into Turkey's own Kurdish areas.

'Wrong front'

The US has been preparing for possible military action against Iraq without the land-based northern invasion it had originally hoped for.

The delay has left US troops and equipment, some of which had already unloaded at Turkish ports, stranded at the "wrong front".

US missile-firing ships that had been anchored off the Turkish coast have sailed at full speed through the Suez Canal to the Red Sea so that their missiles can avoid Turkish airspace.

And in Kurdish northern Iraq, the US will have to rely heavily on bombing, and perhaps on parachuting in ground forces.




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