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Military

US soldiers in Iraq to use Turkish base

PLA Daily 2004-01-13

ANKARA, Jan. 12 (Xinhuanet) -- US soldiers will use the Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey as transit passages during the irrotation into and out of Iraq, the Anatolia News Agency reported Monday.

The report quoted Turkish officials as saying that there was no problem for the broad-scale rotation of the American soldiers as the infrastructure of the base was ready.

Certain hangars have been allocated for transit passages of the American soldiers in line with the regulation made between Turkey and the United States, they said.

American soldiers who come to the Incirlik base would not go out of the base, they said, adding that the rotation of American soldiers deployed in Iraq would last until May.

The United States currently has about 123,000 troops in Iraq and virtually all of them will be brought home, replaced by a force of up to 110,000 by May.

During a visit to Azerbaijan on Saturday, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said that Incirlik "has been used and will be used because the transportation of soldiers is more secure through Incirlik."

Since Turkey refused to allow US troops to land on its soil in the build-up of the US invasion of Iraq last March, the use of Incirlik by the US military has dropped sharply.

For more than a decade, dozens of US warplanes were based there to police a "no-fly" zone over northern Iraq declared after the 1991 Gulf War.

Incirlik has two long runaways and dozens of hardened aircraft shelters.

After the latest US-led war on Iraq, Turkey responded in lastfall to a US call for allies to help provide security in Iraq by offering to send as many as 10,000 troops.

That offer was later withdrawn because of opposition from Iraq's US-handpicked Governing Council.



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