BRUSSELS, Belgium – Days after ending a stalemate over planning for an Iraq war, NATO on Wednesday approved the deployment of AWACS radar aircraft, Patriot missile systems and chemical-biological response units to Turkey.
The decision was made by the same Defense Planning Committee that convened last Sunday to approve the start of military planning to defend Turkey, which neighbors Iraq. The committee excludes France, which opposed the move.
"Alliance solidarity has prevailed," said U.S. Ambassador Nicholas Burns.
"By taking this step, NATO has lived up to its core responsibility ... to respond to an ally in a time of threat," he said.
It was not immediately known how soon the radar planes, based in Geilenkirchen, Germany, would depart. The aircraft with their distinctive radar domes are known as AWACS planes, for airborne warning and control system.
The United States had requested NATO begin contingency planning to protect Turkey -- the only NATO ally bordering Iraq -- in case of war. But France, joined by Germany and Belgium, had blocked any action, arguing such a move was premature and would undermine U.N. efforts to avoid a war.
Last Sunday, NATO convened the little-used defense committee to break the stalemate. Paris left NATO's military command structure in the late 1960s and participates only in political consultations.
Germany and Belgium then dropped their veto in exchange for a statement underlining that the allies continued "to support efforts in the United Nations to find a peaceful solution to the crisis."
The three original holdouts later issued a joint statement stressing their determination to honor their obligations to NATO, but also their desire to disarm Iraq without force.
NATO officials have said that while they would have preferred to have the decision made by all 19 allies, it was important to end the delay that threatened to undermine NATO's credibility and solidarity.