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Turkey Is Among "Most Reliable" of U.S. Allies, Official Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

CHARLESTON, S.C., Dec. 2, 2002 -- A senior U.S. administration official traveling with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz praised Turkey as one of the "most reliable allies" of the United States.

Wolfowitz's trip to London, Brussels, Belgium, and Turkey was delayed because a faulty part developed in his C-17 plane's backup communications system. The group flew here Dec. 1 from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., to replace the part, as required by regulation to fly overseas, an Air Force official noted.

The deputy secretary's group departed Charleston about five hours later for London, where he is slated to meet with senior British leaders. He then travels to Ankara, Turkey, for discussions with top Turkish officials.

In Charleston, the U.S. official noted to reporters traveling with Wolfowitz that Iraq would be high on discussion lists in Great Britain, Turkey and at NATO.

The official said Turkey recently elected a new government whose majority party, although comprised of an Islamic base, has declared for the continuation of a democratic and secular state. Turkey continues to provide Operation Northern Watch air bases from which U.S. and coalition planes over fly northern Iraq, the official noted.

Turkey has been a staunch U.S. ally since the Korean War, the official said. Today, its assistance continues to be valuable, the official continued, whether as another strong ally to confront Saddam Hussein to convince him to give up his weapons of mass destruction peaceably or as a potential partner in a possible war with Iraq should Hussein refuse.

As U.N. inspectors traverse Iraq looking for prohibited weapons, the official remarked that the first real test of Saddam's sincerity comes Dec. 8, when he has to declare his entire WMD inventory.

Following Turkey, Wolfowitz will jet to NATO Headquarters in Brussels to meet with alliance leaders.

The trip is the first of a series over the next few weeks in which senior U.S. leaders will travel to several regions, the official said. The trips are intended to enhance support for Iraqi disarmament and to sound out allies for assistance in the event Hussein reneges.

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