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 Wednesday, 8 January, 2003, 11:03 GMT
UK woos Turkey on Iraq
US C-17 cargo plane takes off from Incirlik air base, Turkey
Turkey is under pressure to let the US use its bases
British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon has praised military co-operation with Turkey despite the country's reservations to a possible American-led war against Iraq.

Mr Hoon is the latest Western official to visit Ankara to urge the Turkish Government to make its military facilities available to fellow Nato allies.

Geoff Hoon
Hoon: Announced call-up of 1,500 reservists
At a news conference, Mr Hoon said he had discussed "current difficulties" with his counterpart Vecdi Gonul but refused to give details.

The talks come as more Western troops head towards the Gulf.

In its latest deployment, the US is sending battle planners to a forward base in Qatar to join thousands of American soldiers being deployed to the region this week, joining the 50,000 already there.

A British naval task force is being sent to the Mediterranean, and military reservists are being called up, Mr Hoon announced on Tuesday.

Flag burned

Turkey is not expected to make a decision on whether to allow the use of its bases, land and ports by US troops until the United Nations has ruled on military action.

The government has played host to a steady flow of high-level visitors from London and Washington over the past few months, all keen to get Turkey to agree to the use of their facilities should war come.

HMS Marlborough
The UK has ordered a task force to the Gulf
Almost 90% of the Turkish public opposes war - thousands attended an anti-war demonstration in Istanbul over the weekend, when the British and American flags were burned.

But there have also been signs that Turkish resistance is softening.

A private TV station reported on Tuesday a decision to allow U-2 spy planes to fly over Turkey on their way to Iraq.

US aircraft already use Turkey's Incirlik air base to enforce a no-fly zone over northern Iraq.

But the head of the Turkish parliament's foreign affairs committee, Mehmet Dulger, has warned against the stationing of any British troops in the neighbouring Kurdish-held part of northern Iraq.

Mr Dulger said Turkey's reservations stemmed from World War I, when Britain helped break up the Ottoman Empire.

'Significant' force

Meanwhile the military build-up has been continuing, with Britain calling up 1,500 reservists and bolstering naval forces already earmarked for the Gulf.

Jacques Chirac
Chirac: Readying French public opinion for possible military action
Mr Hoon told parliament on Tuesday that a "significant" force of vessels would be sent to the Mediterranean in addition to the task force due to set sail for the region on Saturday.

In France, President Jacques Chirac said on Tuesday soldiers needed to be prepared in case new areas of engagement opened up - his clearest reference yet to the prospect of French involvement in any military action in Iraq.

The BBC's Paris correspondent, Jon Sopel, says Mr Chirac is slowly trying to massage public opinion in case military action does take place and French soldiers are involved.

France has long opposed unilateral military action by America against Iraq, insisting any resort to force must be approved by the UN first.

  The BBC's Michael Voss
"Turkish public opinion is strongly against the war"
  British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon
"We must ensure the decisions of the United Nations are properly enforced"
  Andrew Mango, writer and analyst on Turkish affairs
"The sticking point is ground troops"

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See also:

07 Jan 03 | Middle East
07 Jan 03 | Politics
06 Jan 03 | Middle East
07 Jan 03 | Middle East
06 Jan 03 | Middle East
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