Jordan says 900 US troops boost defense in country

Updated 23 June 2013
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Jordan says 900 US troops boost defense in country

AMMAN: Some 900 US military personnel, including dozens staying on from joint military drills, are in Jordan to bolster its defense and prevent the Syrian civil war from spreading across its border, Jordan’s prime minister said Saturday.
It was the first time a Jordanian official disclosed publicly the numbers of US troops in the Arab kingdom, sent there in recent weeks for military exercises and other deployments.
Abdullah Ensour told reporters Saturday that 200 of the personnel were experts training Jordanians to handle a chemical attack. The remaining 700 are manning a Patriot missile defense system and F-16 fighter jets which Washington deployed this month in case the Syrian war worsens.
“The number of US forces in Jordan is small and not intended to be in preparation for a war on Syria,” Ensour said.
Jordan is concerned its larger northern neighbor would use chemical weapons against Syrian refugee camps in Jordan and other neighboring countries, or that the stockpile may fall into the hands of Al-Qaeda or other militants if Syria’s President Bashar Assad loses control.
Jordan hosts the largest number of more than a half million displaced Syrians, with an equal number sheltered in Turkey and Lebanon.
Earlier this month, Washington relocated one or two patriot missile batteries to Jordan from an unspecified country in the Persian Gulf, and also deployed a squadron of 12 to 24 F-16 fighter jets.
The deployment coincided with annual military exercises, dubbed Eager Lion 2013, which wrapped up earlier this week. Supervised by the US, the drills brought together more than 8,000 forces from 19 countries.
Ensour said Jordan was caught between a rock and a hard place in the Syrian crisis, which began in March 2011 with peaceful protests and later plunged into civil war.
“If the war continues, it’s a problem, and if it ends with the collapse of the regime, we also have a problem,” he said, adding that the fall of Assad’s regime would leave a “vacuum, whereby attacks and conflicts would persist.”
“This is why we have been calling for a political solution to the Syrian crisis,” he added.


Turkey’s Erdogan may seek coalition if AK Party fails to get majority

Updated 27 min 21 sec ago
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Turkey’s Erdogan may seek coalition if AK Party fails to get majority

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said his ruling AK Party could seek to form a coalition if it fails to secure a parliamentary majority in Sunday’s elections, but said the prospect of this is “very, very low.”
Polls indicate the elections may be closer than anticipated when he called the snap elections in April, suggesting he may be pushed to a second-round run-off for the presidency, and his AKP could lose its majority in the 600-seat assembly.
“If it is under 300 (seats), then there could be a search for a coalition,” Erdogan said in an interview with the Kral FM radio station late on Wednesday.
He added that the probability of this was “very, very low.”
The Turkish lira, which has slumped more than 20 percent against the dollar this year, has extended losses over the last week on concern about the prospect of political uncertainty following the elections.
Investors fear political deadlock if the AK Party loses its majority in parliament as it would put a brake on Erdogan’s ability to exercise the powers of the new presidential system.
The AKP formed an alliance with the nationalist MHP before the elections, which will herald a switch to a new powerful executive presidency narrowly approved in a referendum last year.
Opposition parties also formed an alliance, which excluded the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). If the HDP exceeds the 10 percent threshold of votes needed to enter parliament, it will be harder for the AKP to achieve a majority.
Under the constitutional changes going into effect after the elections, the number of lawmakers in parliament will increase to 600 from 550 currently.
The AKP has held a majority in parliament for nearly all its 15 years in power, only losing it in the June 2015 election. After parties failed to form a coalition then, Erdogan called a fresh election in November which restored the AKP majority.
MHP leader Devlet Bahceli said on Monday another election could be held if his alliance with the AKP cannot form a majority in parliament after Sunday’s vote.