WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S military hopes to begin moving thousands of troops to Turkey as early as next week to take part in a possible invasion of Iraq under a tentative deal on U.S. aid for Turkey, U.S. defense officials said Saturday
Earlier proposed U.S. aid packages envisaged up to $20 billion in loan guarantees spread over three years, whereas the latest version allows Ankara to take the cash and loans up-front.
At the Bush administration's urging, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert has privately assured Turkish officials that Congress would move swiftly to approve the aid once a final agreement is reached.
Asked if Turkey and the United States had reached a final deal, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said he had "nothing to report."
"We continue to have good consultations with Turkey and I anticipate they will continue a little longer," Fleischer told reporters in Crawford, Texas where President Bush is spending the weekend at his ranch.
The United States plans to move up to 40,000 troops, most of them from the 4th Infantry Division, to Turkey. The division's heavy equipment, including tanks and other supplies already are on cargo ships headed for Turkey.
The troops would be flown there for quick arrival to join a force of nearly 200,000 U.S. and British military personnel gathered in the Gulf region for a possible invasion of Iraq.