Turkey delays military decision
(CNN) -- With events moving closer to a possible war on Iraq, here is a look at some of the latest developments around the world:
ROAD TO WAR?
• NAVY PREPARES CARRIERS: The U.S. Navy has been ordered to prepare two aircraft carriers for deployment to the Persian Gulf after the first of the year, naval officials told CNN Friday. The ships only recently returned from the region. A "prepare to deploy" order has been issued for a carrier to move from both the East Coast and the West Coast. Under that type of order, the carrier, as well as its air wing and other battle group ships, will be required to be ready by a certain date that has not been made public.
• TURKEY HOLDS OFF: NATO member Turkey will delay any decision on whether to support possible military action against Iraq until weapons inspectors have announced their initial findings. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's de facto leader, confirmed the country's position Friday as senior U.S. State Department and Treasury officials arrived in Turkey to discuss economic assistance for the country in the event of war. (Full story)
• U.S. DISPUTES REPORT: The United States disputed Friday claims by Iraq that coalition aircraft struck a mosque in southern Iraq. On Thursday, Iraq said a coalition strike hit multiple targets, including a mosque, and that three people were killed. Coalition warplanes struck Iraqi military command and control facilities, the U.S. Central Command said, in response to Iraqi aircraft violating the southern no-fly zone. Central Command said a bomb damage assessment carried out following the attack showed that no mosque was hit. (Full story)
• NATO'S 'MORAL OBLIGATION': NATO has a "moral obligation" to support the United States if it launches military action against Iraq, the alliance's chief said. Secretary-General George Robertson told the BBC that Washington has offered NATO a series of options for member nations to contribute to a possible war. (Full story)
• SPECIALIST QUESTIONED: The Iraqi Foreign Ministry said that on Friday U.N. nuclear weapons inspectors interviewed a scientist with the al-Raya company, part of the nation's Military Industrialization Commission. Iraq says the scientist "is specialized in the use of aluminum pipes used in manufacturing 81-millimeter missiles with a range of 10 kilometers." The International Atomic Energy Agency would not identify the scientist it interviewed but said his "answers will be of great use in completing the IAEA assessment." (Full story)
• FACULTY MEMBERS QUESTIONED: U.N. arms experts questioned Iraqi scientists at a Baghdad college Thursday and visited at least two other suspect sites. Iraqi officials said senior inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency and U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission visited the Technology University in the capital and questioned the heads of departments and the dean of the facility. (Full story)
WAR OF WORDS
• Speaking on Turkish television, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's de facto leader, says: "You would appreciate that the U.N. decision is binding for us due to the signatures we have put on international conventions. Both we and the government say that Turkey will not finalize its position until the U.N. Security Council's decision." Erdogan adds: "The report by the U.N. inspectors about weapons of mass destruction has not been submitted yet. Until (then) I believe what is said now is no more than gossip and mere prediction."
• Inspectors "have not been able to find any evidence to support the American and British allegations that Iraq is harboring or storing banned weapons," said Gen. Hossam Mohammed Amin, head of Iraq's National Monitoring Directorate. "On the contrary, the results of inspections reiterate the credibility of the Iraqi declarations." Amin said that since inspections began November 27, the U.N. teams have inspected 188 sites.
• NATO "is very, very supportive of the United Nations process, and if that breaks down then clearly there is a moral obligation by NATO to give whatever support is required," NATO Secretary-General George Robertson told the BBC. He said it would be impossible for the United States to go into battle without the support of its allies, but that no decisions have been made on what role the other 18 NATO members would play in any conflict. "Up to now the United States has kept very rigidly to the United Nations route. They still do, the inspectors are still there," Robertson said.
• Senior State Department and Treasury officials have traveled to Turkey, a key ally in a possible war against Iraq, to discuss U.S. economic assistance to Ankara, senior State Department and Turkish officials said. The trip follows a visit to Washington by the Turkish economic minister earlier this month about a U.S. economic package for Turkey "in the context of a possible military campaign against Iraq," a senior Turkish official told CNN. The delegation arrives as the Turkish government begins a series of high-level meetings, including a meeting Friday of the country's National Security Council, to discuss U.S. requests for Turkish support in a war against Iraq.
• The Iraqi government has banned longtime CNN Baghdad Bureau Chief Jane Arraf from Iraq. Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahaf notified CNN of the ban in a Baghdad meeting this week with CNN newsgathering chief Eason Jordan. Al-Sahaf declined to explain why Arraf was banned, although he and other Iraqi officials have complained in recent days and weeks about CNN reporting they characterized as biased and offensive. Jordan appealed in vain for the ban to be rescinded, saying it was unjustified and that Arraf's and CNN's Iraq reporting was journalistically first-rate. CNN said correspondents Nic Robertson, Rym Brahimi and others would remain at the bureau and continue to report from the Iraqi capital.