Turkey's parliament has failed to approve the deployment of US combat troops in Turkey, jeopardizing US war plans in Iraq and putting the country's strategic alliance with Washington at risk.
The leaders of the ruling Justice and Development Party were meeting yesterday to decide whether to resubmit the motion to parliament. The parliament on Saturday voted 264-250 in favor of stationing US troops, with 19 abstentions, but it fell three short of a simple majority for approval.
Washington has been counting on Turkish support.
Hundreds of US trucks and jeeps line a port in southern Turkey, waiting for parliamentary approval. Washington has been pressing Turkey for weeks to agree to a northern front, which would split Saddam Hussein's army between the north and the south, likely making a war shorter and less bloody.
US Ambassador Robert Pearson to Turkey expressed disappointment.
"We had certainly hoped for a favorable decision," Pearson said Saturday. "We will wait for further information and advice from the government of Turkey about how we should proceed."
The White House withheld official comment, but officials said privately that the administration remains convinced it ultimately will get its way.
However, it was not clear whether the government will push the controversial motion once again through the parliament when it reconvenes tomorrow. After a late night meeting Saturday, government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the government was not planning to resubmit the motion to parliament, private NTV and CNN-Turk television stations reported. However, that report could not be independently confirmed.
The motion would have empowered the government to authorize the basing of up to 62,000 US troops, 255 warplanes and 65 helicopters.
Washington had offered Turkey US$15 billion in loans and grants if it accepted a basing deal to ease the impact of any war on the Turkish economy. That money may now be lost.
The failure of the government was a reflection of the overwhelming opposition felt in the public against war in neighboring Iraq. Tens of thousands of Turks protested against war while lawmakers discussed the motion. Many Turks fear retaliatory attacks from Baghdad.
Washington strongly supported Turkey when it secured billions of dollars in loans from the International Monetary Fund during the 2001 financial crisis. But if Turkey does not support the US war plans, many Turks fear that support will disappear.
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