WASHINGTON -- In a setback to the Pentagon's war plans for Iraq, the American military does not yet have approval to use Turkish air bases or airspace for an attack on Iraq, and may not until later this month, Turkey's ambassador to the United States said on Tuesday.
This would complicate planning for scores of American warplanes based at Incirlik Air Base, as well as the nearly 100 combat planes aboard two aircraft carriers in the eastern Mediterranean. If the naval aircraft were not allowed to fly into Iraq from southern Turkey, Pentagon officials would have to decide whether to use the more diplomatically provocative route of flying over Israel and Jordan to hit Iraqi targets.
The new disagreement with Turkey emerged in a phone call on Monday from President Bush to Recep Tayyip Erdogan (REH-jehp TY-ihp UR-doh-wahn), the leader of the governing Justice and Development Party, who on Tuesday was asked by the Turkish president to form a new government following the resignation of Prime Minister Abdullah Gul. The move had been expected since Sunday, when Erdogan, who once served prison time for reading an inflammatory poem, won a seat in the Turkish parliament.
The telephone call turned rocky when Erdogan declined Bush's request to help speed approval through Parliament, administration officials said.
"Any overflight rights in connection with a military operation against Iraq would be subject to approval of the parliament," the Turkish ambassador, O. Faruk Logoglu, told reporters on Tuesday.
Logoglu said it was unlikely that parliament would take up any request until next week at the earliest.
Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Tuesday that just as Franks had alternatives to using Turkish bases for American ground troops, so did he have options for attacking Iraq by air.
One option would be to fly carrier-based jets and Tomahawk cruise missiles over Israel and Jordan into Iraq from the west. This is a shorter route than coming down through Turkey, but having American warplanes barreling out of Israeli airspace for attacks on Iraq would almost certainly inflame tensions in the Arab world, a senior Navy official said.
Rumsfeld: U.S. talking with Iraqi military
WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday that the United States was in secret contact with elements of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's military who it hopes will step aside or surrender in the event of an American-led attack.
Rumsfeld's comments, at a Pentagon news conference broadcast into Iraq, marked the first official indication from the U.S. military that some Iraqi soldiers are cooperating in undermining Hussein.
"They are being communicated with privately at the present time," Rumsfeld said.
"They are being -- will be -- communicated with, in a more public way. And they will receive instructions so that they can behave in a way that will be seen and understood as being nonthreatening. And they will not be considered combatants, and they will be handled in a way that they are no longer part of the problem."
Iraq suicide bomber camp is reported
DOHA, Qatar -- Saddam Hussein has opened a training camp for Arab volunteers willing to carry out suicide bombings against U.S. forces in case they invade Iraq, Arab media and Iraqi dissidents said Tuesday.
The dissidents, speaking by telephone from Jordan, said scores of Arab volunteers have gone to a special camp run by the Iraqi intelligence service near the town of al-Khalis, 40 miles northeast of Baghdad.
The Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite television station reported Saturday that a group of Arab volunteers was being trained in urban warfare in a camp near Baghdad.
Iraq destroys more missiles
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- With a U.S.-British deadline for war failing to pick up support, Iraq destroyed more Al Samoud 2 missiles Tuesday in an effort to cement divisions on the U.N. Security Council.
Hiro Ueki, a spokesman for the U.N. weapons inspectors, told reporters that Iraq destroyed three more of the missiles Tuesday. The latest destruction brings to 55 the number of Al Samoud 2s Iraq has crushed since March 1. That was the U.N. deadline for Iraq to begin destroying the rockets, of which it had about 100 in its arsenal.
In addition to the missiles, Ueki said, Iraq has so far destroyed 28 warheads, two casting chambers, two launchers and five engines -- all associated with the Al Samoud 2 program, said Ueki. Tools and computer software used for launching have also been destroyed.
Other U.N. inspection teams went to a Baghdad factory that makes batteries, and a company that produces letter envelopes in the northern city of Mosul, he added. Another team inspected a food processing plant in the city of Karbala southwest of Baghdad, Ueki said.
Also . . .
SOLDIER DIES IN ACCIDENT: A U.S. soldier has died from injuries suffered when his vehicle rolled over him in Saudi Arabia, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
Army Pfc. Spence A. McNeil, 19, of Bennettsville, S.C., died Saturday following the accident March 3 near Riyadh.
TURKEY EXPELS JOURNALISTS: Turkish authorities ordered the expulsion of two American journalists after they were caught trying to cross the Turkish-Iraqi border illegally.
Los Angeles Times photographer Don Bartletti and Alan Weeks, a freelance cameraman working for ABC News, were detained by paramilitary Turkish police late Monday in a forbidden area a few hundred yards from the border, Bartletti said.