WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday "there may be some creative things we can do" to gain acceptance of a proposed U.S. aid package meant to pave the way for Turkey to help in a war against Iraq.
During a State Department news conference with NATO Secretary Lord Robertson, Powell did not elaborate on those refinements but said he expected to hear from Turkey by day's end. As for the United States, "Our position is firm," Powell said.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, meanwhile, that the deadlock continued.
Implying the United States might deploy troops elsewhere instead, Fleischer said "we have to deal with realities, and we will."
Flying to Atlanta with President Bush, the spokesman said the United States had no final offer to make to Turkey. "This is not a bluff," he said.
And in Turkey, Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis brushed aside U.S. warnings that time was running out. He said a vote in parliament to base tens of thousands of U.S. troops was unlikely before early next week.
But Yakis left open the possibility the government could decide in principle earlier and leave the final authorization for next week.
A senior U.S. official said late Wednesday the United States had not set a deadline. But the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, "We want an answer now."
In another development, a senior administration official speaking on condition of anonymity said that the United States with Britain would offer a new Iraq-war resolution to the U.N. Security Council next week. The official, traveling with the presidential party aboard Air Force One Thursday, indicated the resolution would be pushed forward whether the United States had the votes or not.
Meanwhile, President Bush sought to keep the pressure on the Security Council, telling a suburban Atlanta audience, "Denial and endless delay in the face of growing danger is not an option."
"The world knows Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. He is not complying with United Nations demands to destroy them," he said.
If needed, "This nation, joined by others, will act decisively in a just cause, and we will prevail," he said.
"Iraq can be an example of progress and prosperity in a region that needs both," Bush said, speaking of a post-Saddam Iraq.
In Ankara, foreign minister Yasar Yakis said a parliamentary vote on basing U.S. troops in Turkey is not likely before next week, but the government could decide in principle earlier than that and save final authorization for later.
Earlier Wednesday, Powell interceded with Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul in an apparently unsuccessful effort to break a deadlock over U.S. economic assistance. Powell and State Department spokesman Richard Boucher gave no indication the telephone diplomacy produced a breakthrough.
In Ankara, Turkey's economy minister said the dispute should be resolved "within the coming days."
The remark by Ali Babacan was initially reported by CNN-Turk television and confirmed early Thursday by a spokesman at his office, Halit Ertugrul.
At issue is the size of an economic aid package that would allow Turkey's parliament to approve the deployment of U.S. soldiers there. Turkey has delayed a vote on the troops, waiting for approval of a multibillion-dollar aid package that would compensate Ankara for any losses during a war with Iraq.
A Turkish official in Washington said the country wanted more than the United States had offered but the American side was holding firm. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said his government would make up its mind quickly.
"We are waiting to hear back from the Turks," Powell told reporters. "I think they understand the importance of this issue to us, and to our efforts, and they've got it under consideration now."
Powell added, "Time is moving, but I don't have a deadline I'd like to announce right now."
Ships carrying equipment for a U.S. infantry division are already at sea. The United States wants to base tens of thousands of soldiers in Turkey to open a possible northern front against Iraq.
The dispute with Turkey is one of many problems the Bush administration has as it tries to line up support for an attack on Iraq if Saddam Hussein doesn't disarm quickly.
A new U.N. resolution demanding Iraq's disarmament — and testing the Security Council's resolve — will be introduced "in the near future," Powell said.
Declining to say whether the United States had the votes needed for passage, Powell said a headcount now was "academic" because the resolution had not been tabled yet.
He said "all I ask of all the nations is to weigh the facts" of Iraq's failure to comply with U.N. demands that it disarm.
Powell said "we won't put a resolution down unless we intend to fight for the resolution, unless we believe we can make the case that it is appropriate."
In a speech at Kansas State University, Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., urged the administration to keep working with allies to secure a second U.N. resolution. Hagel said a rush to war that damaged U.S. alliances would be a "short-sighted and dangerous course of action."
In a half-hour phone conversation Wednesday, Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair plotted strategy for presenting the resolution to the Security Council.
Powell, in a program scheduled to air Thursday on Black Entertainment Television, predicted that if it comes to war, the United States probably would be in Iraq for a "fairly extended" transition period after the military phase ended.