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Pentagon confident of Turkish, Saudi support

From Jamie McIntyre

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Turkey is a willing partner with the U.S., despite anti-American sentiment in the region. CNN's Jane Arraf reports (December 4)
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CNN's Jane Arraf on Turkey's position on U.S. use of its bases (December 4)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Despite the reluctance of the Turkey and Saudi Arabia governments to publicly announce the level of support they would provide the United States in a potential war with Iraq, Pentagon officials said Wednesday both countries have given private assurances they will allow U.S. operations from their territory.

In the case of Turkey, Pentagon officials said, new assurances were given and received during an official visit to Ankara this week by U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

Sources said Turkey has assured the United States it will have access to air bases and port facilities, and in return the United States has promised to provide military and economic aid in addition to supporting Turkey's bid to join the European Union.

The United States has also reaffirmed it will not allow the Iraq Kurds to establish an independent country bordering Turkey, which has been the U.S. policy all along.

Pentagon officials said Turkey expressed concern about the number of ground troops the United States might want based in Turkey, citing public sentiment against a large troop presence, and Wolfowitz assured the new Turkish government the United States would work with it on the size of any deployment.

In the case of Saudi Arabia, officials said there have been no new assurances in recent days, but Saudi officials have for months privately indicated the United States would be able to use its high-tech air command center at the Prince Sultan Air Base, and have overflight rights in the event of war with Iraq.

In addition, Saudi Arabia would provide fuel and logistical support, and allow the flights of AWACs and other support planes from its bases, officials said.

While Saudi Arabia has said publicly it will not allow the United States to conduct offensive strikes from its bases, Pentagon officials say privately that that has not been ruled out.

But Saudi Arabia has made it clear it would prefer not to be asked for permission to use its bases, and the United States has indicated it has other options -- including air bases in Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman -- that would suffice.

Nonetheless, the United States wants to use the Combined Air Operations Center in Saudi Arabia because it has far greater capacity than a smaller headquarters facility being set up in Qatar as part of an exercise.

A U.S. Central Command official said Wednesday that the portable modular buildings erected at the As Sayliyah Air Base near Qatar's capital, Doha, "complemented" but did not "replicate" the Saudi facility.

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