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Turkey agonizes over U.S. troops

About 90 percent of the Turkish population are against war.
About 90 percent of the Turkish population are against war.

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CNN's Jane Arraf on the U.S. military's plan to set up base in Turkey. (February 26)
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Major issues parliament has to consider are:

* Whether $6 billion in grants being offered by the U.S. is enough.

* What Turkey's role would be during a war and in a post-war Iraq.

* What political consequences would result from defying the anti-war feelings of most Turks.
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ANKARA, Turkey (CNN) -- Turkey's National Security Council has failed to agree recommendations to its parliament about a proposal to allow more than 60,000 U.S. troops to be based on Turkish soil in the event of a war with Iraq.

A Turkish official said the outcome of four hours of talks on Friday was a sign that the council was leaving the decision to the parliament, which is due to meet on Saturday.

Last month the council recommended that the government do whatever was in the best interest of the country.

Polls show that 90 percent of the Turks oppose war, but the United States has offered $6 billion in economic aid, and refusal to participate would severely limit Turkey's role during a war and in a post-war Iraq.

Originally set for parliamentary debate on Thursday, the country's ruling Justice and Development Party delayed the issue until Saturday, after Friday's meeting of the top military and political leaders who make up the National Security Council.

Salih Kapusuz, the deputy chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party, said there was new information that needed to be investigated, but he did not provide any details.

Mehmet Dulger, head of parliament's foreign affairs committee, said that the United States wanted loans to come under supervision of the International Monetary Fund for 10 years.

Turkish leader Tayyip Erdogan said: "There are negatives whichever decision is taken.

"But that the government has sent the motion to parliament means the concerns have essentially been overcome."

The head of Turkey's top business group, TUSIAD, urged parliament to approve the troops motion quickly.

"If this war happens, it will happen even if Turkey doesn't give permission for the deployment," chairman Tuncay Ozilhan told Reuters.

"For its own interests, Turkey must take the decision on the motion so as not to ... deepen the continuing crisis."

Turkey has sought assurances that Iraqi Kurds will not get more political or military power during and after any war.

Ankara fears separatist ambitions by Iraqi Kurds in northern Iraq could spread to its own Kurdish minority concentrated around the border with that country.

Tensions between Turkey and Iraqi Kurds who have controlled northern Iraq since the Gulf War have risen lately as the Kurds publicly complained about Turkey's plans to send tens of thousands of troops into northern Iraq.

But Turkey says its troops would only help contain any refugee crisis and prevent fighting from spilling over into Turkey and would not participate in the war itself.

Turkey pulled most of its diplomats from Iraq Wednesday and has essentially shut down cross-border trade with Iraq.

U.S. ships carrying base supplies for the 4th Infantry Division are already in the port, while troop transports are over the Mediterranean horizon out of sight.

The U.S. Navy ship Cappella unloaded equipment Wednesday that would be used to modernise Turkish bases in preparation for U.S. forces.


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