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NATO compromise proposed

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 16, 2003

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Belgium offered a compromise Saturday to end a bitter dispute within the NATO alliance over providing military aid to Turkey in advance of a war against Iraq.

Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt said Belgium, France and Germany would endorse a U.S. proposal for such help if NATO makes clear the aid is defensive in nature and it must not be seen as making the alliance a participant in war preparations against Iraq.

NATO called an urgent session of the ambassadors of its 19 member states for today to discuss the proposal.

The refusal of France, Belgium and Germany to endorse any military planning for Turkey, which has requested assistance from its allies, has plunged NATO into its deepest crisis since the Cold War ended.

Germany, France and Belgium have said in the past month that sending military hardware to Turkey would undercut efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis.

Saudi prince says Arab states should send troops to Iraq to thwart invasion

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Arab states should send military troops to Iraq to forestall a foreign invasion, a Saudi prince said Saturday.

"We call on all the Arabs to make this demand, and we call on the noble Arab leaders to make this demand a reality," Prince Sultan bin Turki said in a statement issued in Geneva.

The prince, a nephew of Saudi King Fahd who does not hold a high-ranking position in the government, did not spell out the role an Arab force would play in Iraq, but he said it would help keep the peace and prevent civil unrest.

Proposal to cremate remains of soldiers killed by chemical weapons scuttled

WASHINGTON -- After an outcry from the families of service members, the Pentagon has backed off a proposal to cremate U.S. troops killed by biological or chemical attacks in a war with Iraq rather than bringing their bodies home for burial, defense officials said.

The Pentagon also has opted against a proposal to bury in mass graves the corpses of U.S. troops that might be health hazards.

The proposals, part of a review of military burial procedures that ended this month, were meant to prevent the spread of chemical or biological agents from contaminated bodies to people on the home front. But they raised concern among veterans groups.

Coast Guard ship performs first search

ABOARD THE USCGS BOUTWELL -- Crew members from the U.S. Coast Guard cutter CGC Boutwell boarded a container ship in the northern Persian Gulf on Saturday for their first U.N.-mandated inspections.

The cutter is in the Gulf to aid in the international enforcement of U.N. sanctions imposed on Baghdad after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, checking incoming and outgoing vessels for contraband.

The inspection was to continue into today.

U.S. bombs antiaircraft missile sites

WASHINGTON -- American warplanes bombed two antiaircraft missile sites in southern Iraq early Saturday, the U.S. Central Command announced.

U.S. pilots bombed two mobile, surface-to-air missile sites near Basra, Iraq's major port about 245 miles southeast of Baghdad, at about midnight EST, Central Command said.

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