Ankara denies report US wants Turk base to hit Iran

(Gold9472: Ok... then why were they there?)

02 Jan 2006 17:48:43 GMT

ANKARA, Jan 2 (Reuters) - Turkey said on Monday that newspaper reports which say the United States has asked Ankara for permission to use military bases in Turkey for possible attacks on neighbouring Iran are not connected with reality.

Some Turkish newspapers have reported or repeated similar stories in newspapers published in other countries which say that a series of high-profile U.S. visitors to Ankara in recent months have been preparing the ground for U.S. strikes from Turkey against Iran's nuclear facilities.

"This speculation has no connection with reality," Turkey's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The United States accuses Iran of seeking to produce nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the accusation but insists on its right to produce enriched uranium, a vital component for nuclear power plants or bombs.

"Turkey considers that the problems in its region should be resolved by dialogue and negotiations. It believes our region does not need any new problems and that everyone should fulfil their responsibilities with this aim in mind," the statement said.

The foreign ministry named no newspapers, but Israel's Jerusalem Post, Germany's Tagesspiegel and Turkey's Sabah newspaper are among those that have published reports speculating that the United States would like to be able to use Turkish soil if it decided to launch an attack on Iran.

The heads of both the FBI and the CIA have visited Ankara in recent weeks and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is also expected in the Turkish capital in early 2006.

Relations between Ankara and Washington, traditionally warm, cooled sharply after the Turkish parliament in March 2003 rejected a U.S. request to allow U.S. troops to invade Iraq from Turkey. But they have steadily recovered over the past year.

The U.S. military uses Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey for planes supplying U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Washington cannot transport military personnel or ammunition without explicit permission from Turkish authorities.

Muslim but secular Turkey is a member of NATO and shares a border with both Iraq and Iran. It has cordial relations with both, though along with many other states Ankara recently criticised Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's public call for the destruction of Israel.

Talks between Iran and the European Union, which Turkey aims to join, on a diplomatic solution to the nuclear dispute are due to resume in Vienna this month.