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Iraq: Bahrain Offers Hussein Sanctuary

Manama, Bahrain; 19 March 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Bahrain's official BNA news agency says Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa is ready to offer sanctuary to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to avert a U.S.-led war. BNA reports today that King Hamad said Bahrain is ready to host Hussein "if he wants to reside there with all dignity."

The United States has given Hussein and his two sons until 0200 (Prague time) tomorrow to go into exile or face a U.S.-led attack.

Hussein and the Iraqi parliament have rejected the ultimatum.

Meanwhile, in Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan today reportedly said U.S. warplanes using national airspace to attack neighboring Iraq will be denied access to airbases even for refuelling.

Earlier today, State Minister and government spokesman Cemil Cicek said Erdogan's cabinet will ask lawmakers to debate tomorrow on a motion authorizing the U.S. to use a number of Turkish air corridors in a war on Iraq.

Cicek said the decision was made after Washington urgently requested permission for overflight rights. He also said Ankara will consider any additional demand the U.S. might put forth in the coming days or weeks.

Washington had originally planned to deploy up to 62,000 troops in Turkey with an eye to opening a northern ground offensive against Iraq.

But a government proposal to that effect failed to secure parliament's support earlier this month (1 March).