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NATO's planning for Turkey vetoed



Published: Wed, February 12, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Turkey, which borders Iraq, will likely be a launch pad in a U.S. attack.

COMBINED DISPATCHES

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- France, Germany and Belgium blocked NATO efforts to begin planning for possible Iraqi attacks against Turkey, deepening the rift between those countries and the United States over the Iraqi crisis.

The alliance would have automatically begun planning for the defense of Turkey -- which fears retaliation from neighboring Iraq in case of an invasion -- at 4 a.m. EST if no country protested the move. France beat the deadline by an hour with its veto, and Belgium backed the move as expected. Germany expressed its support as well.

Turkey requested emergency consultations today under NATO's mutual defense treaty, believed to be the first time in the 53-year history of the alliance any nation has done so.

By requesting the consultations, Turkey is now expected to ask for the planning to begin. Diplomats say they expect France, Germany and Belgium to drop their protests with the request.

Borders Iraq

Turkey is the only NATO member to border Iraq and is a likely launch pad for U.S. strikes on its southern neighbor. There are concerns Iraq could launch missiles against Turkey if war breaks out.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld warned continued delays in responding to Turkey's request were "inexcusable" and risked undermining the alliance's credibility.

Rumsfeld intensified his criticism in an interview Sunday with Italy's La Republica newspaper. "Shameful, for me it's truly shameful," Rumsfeld was quoted as saying. "Turkey is an ally. An ally that is risking everything. ... How can you refuse it help?"

Warning from Powell

Also, Secretary of State Colin Powell warned that if the next U.N. inspectors' report, which is due Friday, shows Iraq is still not cooperating with inspections, the White House will seek a U.N. resolution authorizing a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

The Iraqis gave the U.N. chief inspectors more documents to try to clarify lingering questions about 1980s chemical and biological weapons, and said they would establish commissions to search for additional documents and any leftover weapons.

U.N. chief inspector Hans Blix said inspectors found another empty warhead on Sunday, bringing to 18 the number uncovered thus far.

At a news conference after Sunday's sessions, Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei reported receiving documents -- the Iraqis said there were 24 in all -- offering "explanations," if not hard evidence, regarding outstanding issues on anthrax, VX nerve gas and Iraqi missile development. Blix said the documents would have to be studied by his experts.

"I'm beginning to see some positive attitude," Blix told The Associated Press at the end of the talks.

"We are leaving with a sense of cautious optimism," Mohamed ElBaradei said. "We see a very good beginning, and would like to see much more in the coming weeks."

The inspectors flew to Larnaca, Cyprus, today and changed planes for Athens. U.N. officials said ElBaradei was to fly to Vienna and Blix was to fly to New York.

Blix is seeking the help of international missile experts to determine if two Iraqi missile programs violate U.N. resolutions.

Missile production

The experts will spend today and Tuesday examining Iraq's production of the Al Samoud 2 and Al Fatah missiles, which in some tests exceeded the maximum 93 mile range allowed under Security Council resolutions in place since the 1991 Gulf War.

A finding that the programs violate Iraq's disarmament obligations could provide new ammunition to the U.S. case for military action against Iraq.

The U.S. and British governments contend that Iraq retains chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs prohibited by U.N. resolutions, and threaten a military strike if, in the U.S. view, it hasn't disarmed sufficiently.

As tens of thousands of U.S. military personnel train in the Persian Gulf region for possible war, Bush told U.S. congressional Republicans at a policy conference that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein "wants the world to think that hide-and-seek is a game that we should play. And it's over."

Bush said it's a "moment of truth for the United Nations."

Not willing

But the majority of the Security Council wants something short of a U.N. authorization for war against Iraq sought by the Bush administration. That sentiment against military action was expressed again Sunday by Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose country holds veto power on the council.

"We are convinced that efforts for a peaceful resolution of the situation regarding Iraq should be persistently continued," Putin said after talks in Berlin with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany, who also opposes the military route.

The Security Council banned Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and longer-range missiles after Iraq's defeat in the 1991 Gulf War. During the 1990s, U.N. inspectors oversaw destruction of the great bulk of chemical and biological weapons, and dismantled Iraq's program to build nuclear bombs.

The U.N. experts resumed inspections last Nov. 27, after a four-year gap, to certify that Iraq has no leftover weapons and did not restart the arms programs during the U.N. absence.

The U.N. teams were out on their daily surprise inspections again today. Among other sites, they revisited the Ibn Firnas Company just north of Baghdad, which works on remotely piloted aircraft.

The chief inspectors had expected to clear away some remaining practical issues in their Baghdad talks. The Iraqis had balked at allowing the American U-2 spy planes to fly in support of U.N. inspections unless the United States and Britain suspended air patrols over northern and southern Iraq while the plane was aloft.




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