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Turkey approves military operations in Iraq, Syria

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey's parliament gave the government new powers Thursday to launch military incursions into Syria and Iraq, and to allow foreign forces to use its territory for possible operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

The move opens the way for Turkey, a NATO member with a large, modern military, to play a more robust role in the U.S-led coalition against the Sunni militants. However, Turkey has yet to define what that role might be.

The vote came as the extremists pressed their offensive against a beleaguered Kurdish town along Syria's border with Turkey. The assault, which has forced about 160,000 Syrians to flee across the frontier in recent days, left the Kurdish militiamen scrambling to repel the militants' advance into the outskirts of Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab.

The assault was launched despite renewed U.S.-led airstrikes in the area overnight. The United States has been bombing ISIS across Syria since last week and in neighboring Iraq since early August.

Turkey's parliament had previously approved operations into Iraq and Syria to attack Kurdish separatists or to thwart threats from the Syrian regime. Thursday's motion, which passed 298-98, expands those powers to address threats from ISIS militants who control a large cross-border swath of Iraq and Syria, in some cases right up to the Turkish border.

Asked what measures Turkey would take after the motion was approved, Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz said, "Don't expect any immediate steps."

"The motion prepares the legal ground for possible interventions, but it is too early to say what those interventions will be," said Dogu Ergil, a professor of political science and a columnist for the Today's Zaman newspaper.

The motion could allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters to use Turkey's territory to safely cross into Syria to help Syrian Kurdish forces, or permit the deployment of coalition forces' drones, Ergil said.

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