BONN, Germany (AP) _ Germany is considering sending air force planes and pilots to Turkey in response to that nation’s request for NATO help in bolstering its defenses against Iraq.
On Friday, the government flew eight air force advisers to Turkey to check what preparations are necessary to base a 42-jet force there within weeks. The unit is made up of 18 German, 18 Belgian and six Italian air force jets.
The development comes as Germany is under international scrutiny because of a limited contribution to the anti-Iraq coalition in the Persian Gulf region and exports to Iraq before a U.N. embargo was imposed.
Turkey has requested deployment of the air unit by Jan. 15, the U.N. deadline for Baghdad to pull out of Kuwait or face attack by a U.S.-dominated multinational force.
Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s government says Germany is not considering a deployment of ground troops in Turkey, the only country neighboring Iraq that is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a Western military alliance.
″Ground forces are absolutely not under discussion,″ said government spokesman Dieter Vogel.
Iraqi media has reported that Baghdad has reactivated up to 300,000 paramilitary troops to shore up defenses on the country’s northern border with Turkey - a possible second front if war breaks out between Iraqi troops and the anti-Iraqi multinational force in Saudi Arabia.
Some Germans worry that sending a handful of air force pilots to Turkey could lead to a larger German commitment.
Germany’s opposition Social Democrats have demanded Kohl turn down the Turkish request.
Hans-Jochen Vogel, national leader of the Social Democrats, instead demanded that Kohl’s government launch an initiative to seek a peaceful solution to the gulf crisis.
Hans-Christian Stroeble and Renate Dumas, leaders of the leftist Greens Party, called on German troops to desert rather than face fighting Iraq through deployment in Turkey.
When tensions arose over Iraq’s Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait, Germany avoided joining the anti-Iraq military deployment by saying that sending troops to non-NATO turf would be a constitutional violation.
Instead, Germany agreed to help finance the efforts to isolate Iraq, and to provide military equipment and logistical help in moving supplies to the gulf. The total value of the promised assistance amounts to about $2.2 billion.
Nonetheless, criticism persists in Washington that Germany has done too little to support the gulf cause.
Germany has come under even closer scrutiny in the past two weeks because of allegations that German firms had helped Iraq advance its atomic technology. At least 100 German firms are suspected of helping Iraq develop its unconventional weapons capabilities.
There have been reports that Iraq is anywhere from 2 to 10 years from being able to construct an atomic bomb.
NATO is expected to decide in early January whether to grant the Turkish request. Kohl’s government has not clearly stated its position on the matter.
But opposing a NATO decision to send the mobile force to Turkey would raise severe doubts about Germany’s loyalty to the alliance.
Kohl’s governing party, the Christian Democratic Union, leans toward showing greater solidarity with Washington’s gulf policies.
Hans Stercken, chairman of Parliament’s foreign affairs committee and a prominent Christian Democrat, said all efforts must be made to resolve the gulf crisis without a war.
But he said ″(Germany’s armed forces) and all other members of the North Atlantic alliance″ would be ″obliged to repel″ an attack on an alliance member such as Turkey.