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[casi] "They did what?" Turkey's Refusal Stuns US

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Published on Saturday, March 1, 2003 by <A HREF="">Agence France Presse</A>

"They did what?" blurted one State Department official
Turkey's Refusal Stuns US

by Matthew Lee

WASHINGTON -- US officials appeared stunned by the Turkish parliament's
refusal Saturday to allow the deployment of 62 000 US troops for a possible
war with Iraq.

After it became clear the vote had failed, one US official said the earlier
State Department language was "no longer operative".

The officials, who had been prepared to hail the parliament's approval of the
deployment based on initial reports that the vote had succeeded, expressed
consternation when told that it had in fact been defeated.

"They did what?" blurted one State Department official.

That official and others declined to comment on the nullification of the
close vote and were seeking clarification from the US embassy in Ankara as
well as Turkish authorities.

"We are seeking clarification and waiting to see what the Turkish
parliament's decision is," said Tara Rigler, a department spokesperson.

In Ankara, the embassy said US ties with Turkey would not be threatened by
the vote, calling it democratic and one that would be respected by

Look elsewhere

"We respect this as a democratic result," embassy spokesperson Joseph
Pennington said. "We will live with that. US ties with Turkey are not
threatened in any way."

Washington had placed great importance on the vote and had lobbied the Turks
relentlessly to approve the deployment, sweetening the pot by offering some
$6bn in aid to the Muslim nation, where public opposition to a possible war
with Iraq is overwhelming.

On Friday, the State Department said negotiations over the aid package were
"substantially completed" and could not be revised much further, making clear
Washington was losing patience with repeated delays in the vote.

"It's now up to Prime Minister (Abdullah) Gul and his cabinet to complete the
Turkish political process," spokesperson Richard Boucher said.

He would not say whether Washington had set down a deadline for the vote, but
a senior department official said if it was postponed any longer it would be
in effect "too late" and would force troops now massing in the region to
consider alternatives.

"If they wait longer than Saturday, we're going to have to look elsewhere,"
the official said.

After hearing the first incorrect reports on Saturday that the parliament had
approved access for US troops, Washington was set to laud the move and praise
the Turkish government for its courage, according to a reaction prepared by
the State Department.

'No longer operative'

"We warmly welcome the decision of the Turkish parliament to permit US forces
to enter Turkey for possible military operations towards Iraq," it said. "We
applaud the courageous leadership of the Turkish government."

"This vote is a further sign of the strong strategic partnership between our
countries and our joint commitment to ensure that the Iraqi regime complies
with UN Security Council Resolution 1441 and eliminates its weapons of mass

"The United States and Turkey share a common vision of an Iraq free of all
forms of oppression on the way to a free, peaceful and prosperous future in
accordance with the principles of the UN charter," it said.

After it became clear the vote had failed, one US official said the earlier
State Department language was "no longer operative".

The speaker of the Turkish parliament, Bulent Arinc, said the motion to allow
the deployment had failed because it had not received the necessary majority
of MPs present in the chamber.

Of the 533 MPs present for the vote, 264 supported the motion, 250 voted
against it and 19 abstained, Arinc announced.

Copyright 2003 AFP

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