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Turk, fresh off election, wavers on U.S. troops

Published Aug. 31, 2005

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking on national television after an election victory that clears the way for him to become Turkish prime minister, suggested Sunday he would let U.S. troops in Turkey only if the United States provided stronger assurances the interests of his nation would be protected in a postwar Iraq.

Erdogan also indicated he was in no hurry to call a second vote on the issue in Parliament despite growing pressure from the United States for a decision that would allow the Pentagon to move ahead with plans for a northern front against Iraq by moving troops into southern Turkey. U.S. ships carrying tanks and equipment have been waiting near Turkish ports for weeks, and U.S. officials have threatened to give up on Turkey and send them to Kuwait.

Erdogan's remarks, made during an interview on the CNN-Turk television station, seemed intended to lay out his final conditions for a U.S. deployment after a week of confusion over the Turkish parliament's rejection by three votes of his proposal to allow up to 62,000 U.S. troops into the country.

A Turkish official told the Washington Post a second vote in Parliament might be delayed until March 19, unless the Bush administration moved quickly to address the concerns. That would be two days beyond the deadline the United States has proposed for Iraq to disarm. It is unclear whether President Bush would be willing to accommodate such a delay in order to bring on board a longtime ally, and one that could help shorten an Iraqi war.

Erdogan said the United States rushed him to go to Parliament last week before he had gathered enough support and alienated the Turkish public with statements that cast their resistance to the deployment as a bargaining ploy for more economic aid.

U.S. STOCKS TURKISH BASE: U.S troops unloaded trucks and jeeps at a newly established forward-operating base in southeastern Turkey, 100 miles from the Iraqi border. The base will serve as a logistics base for 62,000 U.S. troops, if Turkey allows the United States to use its territory to launch an attack.

Arab leaders plan visit to Iraq in bid to avert war

CAIRO, Egypt _ A high level Arab delegation will travel to Baghdad in the coming days to meet Iraqi officials and try to avert a U.S.-led war, Egypt's foreign minister said Sunday.

Ahmed Maher said the delegation, formed after the Arab summit in Egypt this month, would be "heading to Iraq within two days."

Arab League spokesman Hesham Youssef said the delegation will hold talks with Iraqi officials aimed at "enhancing cooperation between Iraq and the U.N." He did not elaborate.

The delegation will include Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa and top envoys from Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Tunisia.

Iran an example of what Iraq can do, Powell says

WASHINGTON _ Top U.S. officials said Sunday Iran had advanced its nuclear weapons program beyond what authorities had previously believed, and they used the reports to bolster the American case that Iraq must be disarmed.

Time magazine reported Sunday that a nuclear power facility at Natanz in Iran is closer to enriching uranium than thought. The magazine reported the plant has hundreds of gas centrifuges ready to produce enriched uranium that could be used in advanced nuclear weapons.

"We have seen this week Iran has got a more aggressive nuclear program than the (International Atomic Energy Agency) thought it had," Secretary of State Colin Powell said on CNN.

"Here we suddenly discover that Iran is much further along, with a far more robust nuclear weapons development program than anyone said it had," Powell said. "It shows you how a determined nation that has the intent to develop a nuclear weapon can keep that development process secret from inspectors and outsiders, if they really are determined to do it, and we know that Saddam Hussein has not lost his intent."

Powell did not answer directly when asked how close Iran is to building a bomb.

Jiang tells Blair to give inspections more time

BEIJING _ Chinese President Jiang Zemin told British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Sunday that U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq are working and the world must take "as much time as is needed" to defuse the situation and avoid war.

The government's Xinhua News Agency and the Foreign Ministry announced the telephone conversation between the two leaders. The ministry said Jiang emphasized military force will not solve the world's problems.

"War is to no one's advantage," the ministry quoted Jiang as saying, reiterating statements he has made in recent days. "Whatever the cost, it's in everybody's interest to take as much time as is needed."

British Cabinet official threatens to quit over Iraq

LONDON _ A member of Prime Minister Tony Blair's Cabinet said Sunday she will quit in protest if Britain participates in a war on Iraq without United Nations backing.

International Development Secretary Clare Short is the highest-ranking British official to threaten to step down. Newspaper reports Sunday said several lower-ranking members of the government had similar plans.

Short, considered one of the Cabinet's most liberal members, long has been a focus of rumors about possible protest resignations. She resigned as a Labor Party official to protest the party's backing for the 1991 Gulf War.

Short's announcement came after Labor lawmaker Andrew Reed said he was quitting his post as a parliamentary private secretary _ a low-level government job _ apparently over the Iraq crisis.

Elsewhere . . .

PROTESTS IN PAKISTAN, INDONESIA, INDIA: Hundreds of thousands of people in Pakistan and Indonesia, among the world's largest Muslim countries, rallied Sunday against a looming U.S.-led war in Iraq. Muslims in India's capital also protested.

In Indonesia, more than 100,000 people gathered in Surabaya for the country's largest antiwar rally.

In Rawalpindi, Pakistan, hundreds of thousands of people rallied in the second of two antiwar demonstrations that organizers dubbed "Million Man Marches."

CARTER SAYS U.S. HAS OPTIONS: Former President Jimmy Carter says a unilateral attack on Iraq would not meet his criteria of a "just war" and would violate "basic religious principles" and "respect for international law."

In an opinion column published in Sunday's New York Times, Carter says the United States has not exhausted options for a peaceful resolution to the Iraq crisis. He says the Bush administration has presented an "unconvincing" case linking the al-Qaida terror network to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and should more aggressively seek international support before taking military action.