GULF WAR DPSPATCHES
Turks say they will avoid opening a second front The Turkish government, which has sided with the United States since the Gulf crisis began, has endorsed the coalition ground offensive against Iraqi troops, reports Sam Cohen from Istanbul. The southern Turkish air base of Incirlik has reportedly been active in the last 24 hours, with US aircraft engaged in several sorties against targets in northern Iraq. Turkish troops along the Iraqi border have also been in a state of alert. Turkish officials say, however, that there is no question of Turkey being engaged in the war directly by opening a ``second front.'' The hope in official circles in the capital of Ankara is that the war's final stage will not only liberate Kuwait, but also bring down Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime. President Turgut Ozal said hours before ground fighting began that Saddam's intransigence left no room for a halt in hostilities. He said Iraqi troops could have pulled out of Kuwait ``even within less than a week.'' It was important, he said, that Iraq not be allowed to maintain its military capability. Many Turks back the official policy of supporting the new phase in the war. But opposition circles feel the US should have given diplomatic efforts one more chance. Suleyman Demirel, leader of the conservative True Path Party, said the final Soviet plan and US President Bush's terms ``were not unreconcilable.'' Leftist and extreme-rightist circles in Turkey stepped up anti-American campaigning, blaming the US and the multinational coalition for ``intransigence.'' One Muslim leader called the decision for a land offensive ``brutal and immoral.'' French react mildly to news of ground war The French awoke Sunday to reports that French troops were already miles inside Iraq as part of the Gulf war's ground battle, launched earlier in the morning. The news appeared much less a surprise than the beginning of the air war a month earlier, Howard LaFranchi reports from Paris. The mild reaction came first, because optimism over the Soviets' last-ditch diplomatic efforts remained tempered by the still-fresh experience of France's own unsuccessful efforts to win concessions from Iraq in January; and second, because President Fran,cois Mitterrand had prepared the public for a ground battle. Analysts here note a continuing rise in public support for Mr. Mitterrand the more closely he aligns France's Gulf-crisis policy with that of the US and Britain. Few here doubt France will stick close to the coalition until after the war when relations with Arab neighbors will regain their previous weight. Until yesterday France had received no losses in the Gulf war. Mitterrand is, however, said to be concerned that public opinion could shift if French casualties mount. Yet, the collapse of the pacifist movement here, plus public debates invoking the memory of the outset of World War II, when much of France surrendered rather than fight the Nazi invasion, have many analysts predicting the French public will stand firm on this war. British politicians swing behind offensive Britain offered virtually complete cross-party support for the ground assault, reports Alexander Macleod from London. Fewer than a score of members of Parliament, led by the Labour Party's Tony Benn, criticized the assault. Prime Minister John Major issued a statement minutes after the land offensive began, saying: ``We intend to achieve our objective as swiftly and with as few casualties as possible. British forces will play a full part in the operation.'' Neil Kinnock, the Labour opposition leader, blamed Saddam for starting the crisis, saying, ``The men and women of our forces will be playing their full part.'' British Muslims, already deeply divided by the seven-month crisis, responded sharply. Thousands gathered in London Saturday evening to begin marching from the capital's gold-domed central mosque. Kuwaitis living in exile in Britain, however, applauded the land offensive and offered prayers for a swift reconquest of their country. Queen Elizabeth II, for the first time since she came to the throne in 1948, broadcast to the nation during war. She expressed pride in the British forces and wished an early victory. -PATHNAME- /usr/local/etc/httpd/plweb/DBGROUPS/paper/database/tape/91/mar/week10/ogulf.