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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 25 February, 2003, 16:09 GMT
Turkey set to admit 62,000 troops
US troops off Turkish coast
Thousands of US troops are waiting offshore
The Turkish Government has handed parliament a motion to permit 62,000 US troops to be deployed in Turkey for six months.

The motion, which would enable US forces to use Turkey as a springboard for an attack on Iraq, had been scheduled for debate on Tuesday, but one report suggested it may not now be put to a vote until Thursday.

US and Turkish officials negotiated through Monday night on a multi-billion-dollar aid package from Washington, and the role Turkish troops might play in northern Iraq, but some details remained unresolved.

62,000 troops
255 warplanes
65 helicopters

The Turkish cabinet finally agreed to the US deployment request on Monday after weeks of mounting pressure from Washington, which wants the option of a northern front in any war against Iraq.

The BBC Turkey correspondent, Jonny Dymond, says parliament is hostile to the idea of war, and that MPs do not want to vote until a satisfactory deal with the US has been agreed.

There is also widespread public opposition.

However, when the vote does take place, parliament is expected to approve the deployment.

To have kept the process any longer would not have been very healthy, therefore it was decided to send the authorisation to parliament today
Abdullatif Sener
deputy prime minister
The AK Party has a huge majority, and it would take a very big rebellion to block the deployment.

Deputy Prime Minister Ertugrul Yalcinbayir said he would join the rebels.

"In my opinion there is no legitimate ground (for war). If the motion is not passed, there will be more unity, more peace and more democracy in Turkey," he said.

The motion also authorises Turkish troops to enter Iraq.

It is thought that tens of thousands of Turkish soldiers might be given a military role by the US in securing Kurdish northern Iraq.

Turkish convoy heads for border zone
Turkey's own military build-up is continuing
Turkey has been bargaining with the US for weeks on a multi-billion-dollar compensation package in return for agreeing to the deployment.

The government in Ankara also wants assurances about border security and the political structure of Iraq after any war.

The issue is a sensitive one for Turkey, which fears that events in Kurdish northern Iraq could have a knock-on effect on its own Kurdish territories.

But Turkey, as the only Nato member to share a border with Iraq, occupies a key strategic position - hence the heavy US pressure to agree to the deployment.

In a further complication, the Turkish president declared last week that no deployment could go ahead without a second UN resolution.

He must approve the deployment, and it is not clear whether he might try to block it.

Once approved, the US deployment would begin without delay.

US ships laden with troops and equipment are waiting off the coast for clearance to land.

The BBC's Stephen Sackur
"The US believes the Turkish front is going to be very important"

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