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Iraq urged to comply with U.N.

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Turkish soldiers escort military vehicles in a convoy Thursday near the Turkish-Iraqi border town of Habur.

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ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNN) -- Turkey's foreign minister and his regional counterparts urged a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis Thursday, demanding that Baghdad offer proactive cooperation with United Nations weapons inspectors inside Iraq's borders.

Turkish Foreign Minister Yasir Yakis said "the specter of war in Iraq is looming large. War should not become an option to resolve this crisis."

He made his comments after meeting with counterparts from Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.

Yakis earlier warned that the threat of war on neighboring Iraq was a "firestorm" heading toward the region.

The final draft of the document is still under the different nations' review. A copy of it was made available to CNN.

In addition to asking for stronger cooperation with current inspections, the statement is expected to demand that Iraq agree to long-term monitoring in the future and refrain from making inflammatory statements about the current inspections and inspectors, officials said.

In exchange, the ministers from the six countries are expected to help Iraq avoid a military conflict with the United States.

Turkish government sources say the ministers want to send a united message to the rest of world that war against Iraq should be a very last resort.

The United States has been pushing a plan to use Turkish territory for tens of thousands of its soldiers in an Iraqi conflict, but Ankara has been reluctant to agree to such a plan, and reportedly favors a smaller force.

Turkey finds itself in a sensitive diplomatic role in the Iraqi conflict. The country borders Iraq in the area where a restive Kurdish population resides in both countries.

It does not want a war against Iraq, in part because it fears the conflict could spill across borders, arouse tensions with Kurds in both countries, and create serious economic and social problems.

On the other hand, Turkey -- the only Muslim NATO member and a close ally of the United States -- is trying to work with Bush administration. The nation also is currently leading the international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan as backup for the U.S.-led war against terror.

Ankara allowed the United States to use its territory as a staging point for strikes on Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War, and it has provided air bases for coalition jets as they patrol the no-fly zone over neighboring northern Iraq.

However, Turkey has signaled fears that another U.S. war against Iraq would do further damage to its fragile economy, and has looked to Washington to provide compensation for any support it provides.

Ankara estimates it lost more than $30 billion in trade revenue with Iraq, as well as significant tourist revenue, during the Gulf War.

The Bush administration and Turkish officials have said a possible U.S. aid package would be worth several billion dollars, and would include both economic and military components.

Gen. Richard Myers, who left Turkey Monday after two days of meetings with Turkish officials, characterized his discussions as "very good" and "very frank and open."

Turkey, said Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, "will continue to be a very important strategic partner for the United States."

Last week, a spokesman for President Ahmet Necdet Sezer said Turkey's contribution to any military action in Iraq would be limited by its historic ties to its neighbor -- and its parliament would likely require a new U.N. resolution authorizing war before making a decision.

-- CNN Correspondent Jane Arraf contributed to this report.


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