BRUSSELS, Belgium – The United States formally asked for NATO limited help Wednesday in case of war with Iraq.
NATO officials said ambassadors from the other 18 alliance nations discussed proposals based on those presented to the allies informally last month by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.
-- Protecting Turkey from the threat of a counter-strike from the Iraqis.
-- Using NATO's planning facilities to coordinate efforts such as air or sea transport for troops and equipment, air-to-air refueling, or even air cover to ground troops.
-- Using collective forces such as AWACS surveillance planes, minesweepers or naval patrol ships.
-- Providing troops to enforce peace and help rebuild Iraq after Saddam Hussein's regime has been toppled.
Rep. Doug Bereuter, the Nebraska Republican who heads NATO's Parliamentary Assembly, said the U.S. would also be seeking base and overflight rights from its allies.
NATO is not expected to play a front-line role in any possible military strike, although the United States wants individual allies to join a coalition against the Iraqi leader.
In Washington, Defense Seretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was asked if participation meant a combat role.
"There are countries that have indicated they want to participate individually in ways that I think would be characterized as combat," Rumsfeld told reporters without naming the countries.
Although European allies are divided about the possibility of war, Wolfowitz's proposals received a generally positive response from the other NATO allies.
Officials at NATO headquarters called the preparations "prudent defense and contingency planning."
NATO's most prominent role could be in defending Turkey, Iraq's northern neighbor, where the United States is inspecting runways and harbors in preparation for the possible dispatch of 80,000 soldiers for an Iraq operation.
"Turkey's a member of NATO, and if there's a conflict in that part of the world, that's an appropriate issue for them to address," Rumsfeld said.
Although opinion polls show more than 80 percent of Turks oppose military strikes against Iraq and the government fears war could destabilize the entire region, analysts say Turkey is likely to concede at least some use of its facilities to the United States.
On the overall U.S. request, diplomats stressed the issue was still at an early stage and no immediate decisions were expected to send the proposals to NATO's military planners.
"The discussions are in the very preliminary stage," Rumsfeld said in Washington.
NATO leaders at a summit in Prague in November pledged "effective measures" to ensure that Saddam comply with U.N. demands for disarmament, and warned Iraq "will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violation of its obligations."
On a visit to Brussels, Bereuter stressed a possible peacekeeping role for NATO after Saddam is toppled.
"It's potentially possible that NATO would have a role in peace enforcement, perhaps even governance" until a new Iraqi administration is able to run the country, he told reporters.