INCIRLIK AIR BASE, TURKEY, JAN. 17 -- The Turkish National Assembly voted overwhelmingly today to allow the United States to attack Iraq from Turkish air bases, a move that opposition political leaders charged could drag the country into the Persian Gulf war.
Within hours of the vote, at least two dozen U.S. F-15 and F-16 attack aircraft took off from this base in southern Turkey, but a Turkish military spokesman told the semi-official Anatolian News Agency that the planes were on a training flight. The agency said three U.S. tanker planes designed for mid-air refueling also left the base.
President Turgut Ozal, who has championed an active Turkish role in the crisis in the face of opposition from the political-military establishment, the press and public opinion, told the Cable News Network after the assembly vote that a decision to launch air strikes from the bases was now "up to the United States command."
The war-powers vote in the capital, Ankara, also reaffirmed previous approval for the government to permit stationing of foreign armed forces here and sending Turkish troops abroad, an eventuality Ozal repeatedly has said could occur if a power vacuum develops in Iraq.
The 250-to-148 vote -- with 52 legislators absent or abstaining -- cleared the way for the dispatch here of 48 U.S. fighters and fighter-bombers under a massive deal involving military and financial aid struck last Sunday between Ozal and Secretary of State James A. Baker III. Under previous ground rules, U.S. fighter aircraft strength could not exceed the 48 stationed at this base.
Before the vote -- a foregone conclusion because of the ruling Motherland Party's nearly two-thirds majority in the assembly -- Ozal said: "Turkey is most unlikely to get involved in the war." Ozal apparently meant that Turkey would not initiate hostilities either by air or by opening a second front along its 206-mile frontier with Iraq. But Erdal Inonu, leader of the Social Democratic Populist Party, denounced the authorization as "a second front in itself."
Special correspondent John Arundel reported from Cairo:
Iran's president said his country might participate in a military assault against Iraq if provoked by its Arab neighbor, Egypt's state-controlled Cairo radio reported. President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said Iran might attack Iraq if drawn into battle, but "at the present time, there is no need because Iranian interests are not endangered by Iraq."