Top U.S. General Meets Turkish Military Leaders

The top U.S. general met with Turkish military leaders Monday and played down reports that Washington is angry with Turkey over its reticence to host large numbers of U.S. troops for a war on neighboring Iraq.

Gen. Richard Myers did not comment on reports that the United States is scaling back its plans for a massive northern thrust against Iraq due to Turkish opposition. However, a Turkish general, speaking on condition of anonymity, said any U.S. troop presence in Turkey would be "limited."

"Turkey has been a very cooperative partner," Myers, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said after talking with top military leaders in Ankara. "I would expect them to be in the future as well."

The United States wants to put 80,000 troops in northern Turkey but Turkey has been reluctant to go along because most Turks oppose a war against Iraq.

"We have to do everything we can" to prevent a war, Prime Minister Abdullah Gul said Monday.

"It's the proper thing for our economy, for the [region's] future and for humanity," he was quoted by the Anatolia news agency as saying.

Turkish media have reported that Washington is now considering scaling back its plan to a more acceptable force of between 15,000 and 20,000 soldiers.

"We are going to work through the many issues that we have and I certainly would not characterize it as impatience," Myers said after meeting with Turkish military chief Gen. Hilmi Ozkok and Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul.

Myers refused to discuss any details of his talks, saying it was up to Turkish officials to "characterize the details."

Gonul called Myers' visit a "purely courtesy" call.

The Turkish military said that Ozkok and Myers discussed "Turkish-American military relations, defense industry projects and developments in the region" but gave no other details.

The visit comes amid a flurry of diplomatic activity in Turkey.

The British military chief, Adm. Sir Michael Boyce, is due to visit Turkey on Thursday, followed on Friday by U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Jones, the new NATO military commander.

Turkey is also looking to host the foreign ministers of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and Iran in a regional summit aimed at avoiding war.

The summit is scheduled for Thursday but the Foreign Ministry said that there could be delays as all of the leaders have not yet agreed to attend.

"I think that is a serious initiative and I think it could be very, very helpful as a matter of fact," Myers said.

Turkey fears a war could destabilize the region and harm the economy.

U.S. and Turkish officials have been working on an aid package for Turkey in the event of a war.

Economy Minister Ali Babacan said the two sides have agreed on the structure but have yet to determine the amount, the Anatolia news agency reported.