U.S. Adds Jets at Turkish Airbase
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ The United States has flown in more planes to a southern Turkish airbase, strengthening the fleet of fighter jets there amid rising tensions between Iraq and the United Nations, a U.S official said Sunday.
``We have just recently sent four additional F-16 fighter jets and three additional tankers planes for refueling,″ said Airforce Capt. Rene Stockwell, spokeswoman for the base, told The Associated Press.
Incirlik, near the southern city of Adana, was used by the United States and its allies during the 1991 Gulf War to launch air raids on Iraq.
But Turkey has indicated that it would not be willing to allow use of the base again for attacks on Iraq.
The latest tensions were triggered by Baghdad’s expulsion of U.S. members of U.N. arms inspecting teams. An American U-2 spy reconnaissance plane was expected to fly over Iraq despite Baghdad’s repeated threats to shoot down planes flying over its territory.
A Turkish newspaper claimed Sunday that U.S. Stealth aircraft, capable of evading enemy radar systems, were among jets dispatched to Incirlik, but the report was promptly denied by Turkey’s defense minister.
``The Incirlik airbase is limited to reconnaissance flights in line with the decisions of Parliament, and no plane has landed that is outside of the quota assigned for those flights,″ Defense Minister Ismet Sezgin told reporters.
He also denied that the United States had plans to use the base for possible logistic support in case of a conflict.
Incirlik currently serves as base for ``Operation Northern Watch,″ which patrols the no-fly zone north of the 36th parallel in northern Iraq and monitors Baghdad’s treatment of Kurds. More than 45 U.S. and British planes and 1,400 personnel are part of the mission.