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Turkey to vote on airspace for U.S.

Incirlik airbase is already used for no-fly zone patrols.
Incirlik airbase is already used for no-fly zone patrols.

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Lt. Gen. Daniel Christman explains Turkey's role in providing a staging area for U.S. troops (March 19)
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ANKARA, Turkey (CNN) -- Turkey's government is asking lawmakers to allow U.S. warplanes to fly over the country -- but it does not want U.S. forces to use Turkish bases for an attack on Iraq, the prime minister's office said Wednesday.

Turkey's parliament is expected to vote on the measure Thursday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office said.

Erdogan's new government has been under intense pressure to allow U.S. forces to use its territory to open a northern front against Iraq. But opinion polls in Turkey show the public overwhelmingly opposed to war.

The United States had sought the use of Turkish bases for about 62,000 troops in order to move against Iraq from the north in an increasingly likely conflict.

Government spokesman Cemil Cicek said the United States and Turkey agreed in principle for Turkish soldiers to enter northern Iraq once the war begins to create what would amount to a buffer zone.

An earlier proposal to allow in U.S. troops failed in Turkey's parliament despite U.S. promises of up to $6 billion in grants or up to $20 billion in loans in exchange for the use of Turkish bases.

Turkish officials are also concerned that if a U.S.-led coalition topples Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Kurds in northern Iraq could gain control of Iraqi oil fields and use that as leverage to create an independent Kurdish territory in northern Iraq. That could prompt Kurds in southeastern Turkey could rise up as well, Ankara fears.

The leaders of the two major Iraqi Kurd political parties, Turkmen representatives, Turkish government officials and the U.S. special envoy to the northern Iraqi opposition agreed Wednesday on a plan to maintain the status quo in the region during and after a war with Iraq.

A statement issued after the meeting said the participants agreed to preserve "Iraq's independence, sovereignty, and territorial and national unity."


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