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Turkey offers five ships, submarine for Libya

Turkey has offered to contribute five warships and a submarine to international operations in Libya, assets it has stipulated will be used solely for humanitarian and defense purposes, NATO officials said Wednesday.

The Turkish government will seek parliamentary authorization Thursday to send troops and military equipments abroad despite ongoing debate over NATO’s role in implementing the no-fly zone over Libya.

No further information was available about the scope of the parliamentary motion, leaving the prospect unclear of potential Turkish participation in air patrols of the no-fly zone.

NATO has received offers from six countries for up to 16 vessels to prevent weapons from entering Libya, Gen. Pierre St-Amand told a news briefing. According to the NATO general, Turkey has offered a submarine, four frigates and one auxiliary ship.

The move came a day before an important visit from Brussels to Ankara, with NATO’s top European commander set to pay a visit to the Turkish capital amid Turkey’s insistence that it will block the alliance from assuming responsibility for maintaining the no-fly-zone unless certain conditions are met.

The visit by Adm. James Stavridis, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, was scheduled before the Libyan crisis broke out, but current events would likely be on the agenda, a Turkish diplomatic source told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Wednesday.

Secret session set for Thursday

Parliament is expected to hold a closed session Thursday at 2 p.m. with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu briefing lawmakers. The government has a clear majority in getting approval from Parliament but on Wednesday it began briefing the opposition parties about the government’s stance on an operation in Libya.

“We informed the opposition about Turkey’s Middle East policy, our vision and the background of our stance,” Davutoğlu told reporters after meeting with Republican People’s Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

Davutoğlu, accompanied by his Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu, Ambassador Tacan İldem, executive assistant Gürcan Balık and adviser Ali Sarıkaya, held a “comprehensive” meeting with the CHP chief for almost two hours at party headquarters. Kılıçdaroğlu was accompanied by deputy party leaders Osman Korutürk and Gülsün Bilgehan, deputies Akif Hamzaçebi, Hüseyin Pazarcı and the party leader’s adviser Faruk Loğoğlu.

The foreign minister told Kılıçdaroğlu that “the proposals laid down by the CHP are what the government is already implementing,” it has been learned. Davutoğlu also said a land operation was not on the agenda, explaining that the U.N. Security Council Resolution authorizing the no-fly zone ruled out such an option.

“The Security Council should reconvene and adopt a different resolution for a land operation. We are against this,” Davutoğlu told the CHP leader. He informed Kılıçdaroğlu that Turkey would only join a humanitarian assistance program under a NATO mission.

“We are going through such important times that the steps that we’ll take and the messages that we will give are very important for Turkey’s global influence,” Davutoğlu told reporters after the meeting. He said a process of change was taking place in the Middle East, something that brought opportunities but also serious risks.

Davutoğlu said he briefed the CHP leader not only about the latest developments in Libya but also Turkey’s Middle East policy and events in Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain.

The foreign minister will meet Thursday with the leaders of the Democrat Party, or DP, and the Democratic Left Party, or DSP.

Gül: Some countries are opportunist

On Wednesday, President Abdullah Gül said some countries were behaving opportunistically regarding the developments in Libya, apparently referring to France taking the lead role in military operations. The president also called on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to step down to prevent more bloodshed in the country.

“It is important for Turkey that the situation in Libya ends without further bloodshed. Those who run Libya must step down immediately to ward off plunderers,” Gül told reporters before his departure for Ghana.

“Remember Saddam [Hussein’s] behavior and what has unfolded in Iraq … That might somehow occur again in Libya,” he said.

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