U-S Secretary of State Colin Powell is urging a deeply-split NATO to come to the assistance of Turkey in the event of war in neighboring Iraq.
Mr. Powell expressed hope NATO countries will now realize that they have an obligation to assist an alliance member that asks for help. He said he expects NATO members to reach a solution that will assure that Turkey is not put at risk. Mr. Powell spoke in Washington after talks with Australian Prime Minister John Howard.
His comments came after France, Belgium and Germany blocked U-S calls for military support to Turkey in the event of a conflict. Turkey is the only NATO member bordering Iraq.
U-S Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called the action by the three countries a mistake. He stressed the importance of moving ahead with planning for the defensive measures and acknowledged that it might be necessary to proceed outside the formal structure of the alliance.
Ambassadors of the 19-nation alliance are meeting in Brussels to discuss the situation. Turkey called for consultations under provisions of the NATO treaty requiring such discussions if an alliance member feels its security or territory threatened.
Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis has downplayed the dispute and said it will be overcome.The Turkish minister said he had spoken to officials of France, Germany and Belgium. He expressed confidence their action was not a veto against defending Turkey but only a disagreement within the alliance over timing.
The United States wants NATO to send early warning planes, (Patriot) air defense missiles andn anti-chemical and biological warfare units to Turkey to protect it from any potential attacks from Iraq. Turkey is expected to be a major staging area for any U-S-led military action against Iraq.