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Analysis: Anti-War Demonstrations in Ankara, Turkey

Weekend Edition Saturday: March 1, 2003

Turkish Lawmakers Split on U.S. Troops



SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Today, as the United States and Great Britain rally ever greater numbers of troops and materiel in the Persian Gulf, we're watching developments that may bear on the likelihood of war against Iraq. About 25 miles outside of Baghdad, UN weapons inspectors have destroyed four Al Samoud missiles. Now these are the missiles that United Nations chief weapons inspector Hans Blix says can hit targets beyond the 150-kilometer limit set by the UN.

Janine di Giovanni is in Baghdad. She's a reporter for the Times of London; joins us from there.

Thanks for being with us, Janine.

SOUNDBITE OF DEMONSTRATION IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE

SIMON: That's not Janine di Giovanni in Baghdad. That's actually sound from Ankara, Turkey. And let's get some guidance here. Perhaps Guy Raz joins us on the line from Ankara, Turkey, where a vote of the Turkish parliament has just taken place, which apparently is going to authorize Turkish soil to be used, in the event of a war with Iraq, by US troops.

Guy, are you there?

GUY RAZ reporting:

Hi, Scott.

SIMON: Hi. Nice talking to you. Listen, we heard some sound from a massive anti-war demonstration today in Ankara, Turkey. Public opinion has been very heavy--95 percent, I believe--against using Turkish soil to stage any kind of US and British attack. How did the vote in parliament go today?

RAZ: Well, Scott, it's been a very, very extraordinary vote, and we're still getting the results in at the moment. There are about 550 members of the Turkish parliament, and only 534 have turned up to vote today. Two hundred and sixty-four members voted to support the measure; 251 opposed it, and 19 abstentions. So there was no absolute majority. It was three votes short of an absolute majority. So it's still not clear whether this has passed because the opposition is challenging the legitimacy of the vote, and they're calling for a revote. But an extraordinary day in the parliament today. You had two opposition members taken to the hospital from exhaustion. But at this point it seems like, at least on the first ballot, it's passed.

SIMON: Now do we know what this would mean in terms of what facilities Turkey would make available, or what areas?

RAZ: Well, the military planners in Washington are very keen to use bases and areas in the southeastern part of the country, places like Bakman(ph), and Diyarbakir and Silopi. Now the US has been using Incirlik Air Base for a number of years, and they've kept several jet fighters there, which are used to patrol the no-fly zones in northern Iraq. That number of jet fighters is likely to rise if this vote does become accepted. And then, of course, US troops would be coming into the port at Iskenderun to begin deploying here in the southeastern part of the country.

I just wanted to add at this point, Scott, that we are still getting information that this vote may not be accepted. The justice minister says he will decide whether it's legitimate. So at this point, it's still not entirely clear whether the parliamentary decision to pass the motion will actually be accepted.

SIMON: OK. Guy, thank you very much for speaking with us.

RAZ: Thanks, Scott.

SIMON: NPR's Guy Raz in Ankara, Turkey.

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