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Powell says he still wants troops in Turkey

By WES ALLISON, Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 17, 2003

WASHINGTON -- The United States has not given up on Turkey as a springboard for American forces in a war against Iraq even though the Turkish Parliament has rejected the idea, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday.

Powell said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will resubmit the proposal to Parliament but the timing was uncertain.

He praised Erdogan's political courage because of the "interesting political situation" he is trying to resolve -- finish forming his government while developing a way to get a disapproving Parliament to say yes to the Americans.

"I wouldn't eliminate any of the options that are on the table right now. A lot depends on what Mr. Erdogan feels he can get through his Parliament. And he has to make that political judgment," Powell said on Fox News Sunday.

The United States wants to deploy 62,000 troops in Turkey for an invasion of northern Iraq. The United States also wants permission to fly combat missions from Turkish air bases and to use Turkish airspace for cruise missile attacks.

Marine commander believes war is just 'days away'

CAMP COMMANDO, Kuwait -- The top Marine commander in the region predicted Sunday that war was "just a few days away" and suggested that it would begin with a three- or four-day bombing campaign intended to wipe out half the Iraqi defenders at the border before sending in U.S. and British land forces.

Lt. Gen. James Conway, who commands more than 85,000 Marines and British troops poised to attack, said his force would target Iraq's 51st Mechanized Division with 130 fighter jets and about 75 attack helicopters, then rush in on the ground to seize southern Iraq.

The "road-to-war brief," as it was called, complete with flyovers by fighter jets and attack helicopters, reinforced for troops in the field that war appears imminent. Some units have packed up and moved out of their camps, received live ammunition and sent off what they think could be their final letters home before hostilities begin.

Conway told the Marines that he did not know exactly when war would begin. "But I'll tell you this," he said. "I believe in my heart it's just a few days away."

U.S. special forces are working with Kurds, officials say

IRBIL, Iraq -- U.S. special forces troops are working with Kurdish military units with the aim of penetrating Iraqi-held territory once an American invasion begins, spotting targets for U.S. airstrikes and laying the groundwork for seizing Kirkuk, a strategic oil city in northern Iraq, Kurdish officials told the Washington Post.

The deployment marks the first known instance of American forces blending with Kurdish units, which are based in a safe haven beyond control of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's government. Several dozen U.S. troops are stationed in the Kurdish zones, largely invisible to the public, the officials say. More will begin arriving in the next few days, a Kurdish official said.

The Kurds lack the technology to call in U.S. airstrikes, Kurdish officials said. "The Americans have the technology and the training. We have the numbers and the morale, and we know the area," said Azad Miran, chief of the Kurdistan Democratic Party's military operations. "Spotting is vital. It has to happen."

Bush's speech heartens soldiers of 101st Airborne

CAMP PENNSYLVANIA, Kuwait -- At this American army base several miles from the Iraqi border, infantry officers with the 101st Airborne Division sat outside on sandbags to watch jerky images of President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair on a satellite-fed Fox News Channel monitor.

Lt. Col. Chris Hughes, who commands the 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry of the 101st Airborne, said he was heartened by their speeches and believes an attack is imminent. Most of the division's troops arrived from Fort Campbell, Ky., two weeks ago.

"It's one more nail in Saddam Hussein's coffin as far as I'm concerned," Hughes said. "'I don't see a crack in that coffin. When the 101st arrives, you know things are about to happen."

Soldiers of all ranks say they hope war starts sooner rather than later, especially with temperatures beginning to rise. Most also say Hussein has more than enough time to comply with orders to disarm.

"They've done more than they've had to to convince the world what needs to be done," said Hughes, a former antiterrorism officer. "There are only so many ways you can say, 'Trust me, the guy has weapons of mass destruction and we have to stop him before he comes to our homeland.' "

-- WES ALLISON, Times staff writer

Pope pleads with Hussein to comply before it's too late

VATICAN CITY -- Pope John Paul II implored Saddam Hussein on Sunday to urgently comply with U.N. disarmament demands and avoid giving cause to the West to attack Iraq.

"The next days will be decisive for the outcome of the Iraq crisis," the 82-year-old pope said from his studio window overlooking St. Peter's Square.

Also . . .

NEW BANDAGES COMING: Military medics will soon carry bandages designed to halt massive blood loss quickly, the first upgrade for treating battlefield wounds since the days of the Roman Empire.

The two kinds of bandages, expected to be approved soon by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, form instant scabs or sealants over a wound.

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