BRUSSELS, Belgium – NATO called a special meeting to discuss the Iraq crisis, as pressure grew Wednesday on France and Germany to drop their veto on the alliance's starting military planning for a support role in a possible war.
NATO's policy-making North Atlantic Council will meet Thursday afternoon to discuss Secretary of State Colin Powell's address to the United Nations, where he was expected to lay out new evidence of Iraqi weapons programs and alleged links to international terrorists.
Diplomats at NATO headquarters said Powell's address Wednesday could persuade France, Germany and Belgium to end their three-week refusal to authorize preparations for supporting an Iraq war, notably by helping protect NATO-member Turkey from any Iraqi counterstrike.
France and Germany have argued that launching the military preparations is premature and could undermine U.N. efforts to secure Iraq's disarmament without a war.
But increased pressure from Turkey appeared to be having some effect already.
In Luxembourg, which also had been holding out, government spokesman Guy Schuller said his country would now back an appeal from Turkey for military help from NATO -- after the Turkish Foreign Ministry called the four ambassadors in Ankara for consultations Tuesday.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Yusuf Buluc said his country wants a quick decision from its allies.
"We hope that this hesitation will be overcome rapidly," Buluc told reporters in Ankara. "Turkey attaches importance to the fact that the issue is not delayed any longer."
Under consideration are proposals to send to Turkey AWACS surveillance planes to monitor air traffic, including any hostile flights, and Patriot defense systems that can shoot down incoming missiles.
Those proposals were included in a package put forward by the United States three weeks ago. It also comprised plans for NATO to intensify naval patrols in the eastern Mediterranean Sea; guard U.S. bases in Europe; replace American troops sent from the Balkans to the Gulf and an eventual peacekeeping role for the alliance in a postwar Iraq.
As the likelihood of war has heightened however, Turkey has become increasingly vocal in asking its allies to back measures to protect it. The only NATO member that borders Iraq, Turkey is a likely springboard for U.S. troops opening up a northern front against Iraq.
All NATO decisions need unanimous support from the 19 allies.