Turkey's Foreign Ministry said the OK for the US to use its air bases for attacks on Iraq was not a promise but, rather, had been given in the context of "possibilities." It also discouraged talk of large numbers of US ground troops being based on Turkish soil. Visiting Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said the US hadn't made a "firm request" for the bases but expected "a significant level" of Turkish participation in the event of war with Iraq. In other Iraq-related developments:
• As many as 30 anti-Hussein Iraqi Kurds died and six others were wounded in a gunfight early Wednesday with Islamic militants believed to be tied to Al Qaeda. Reports said the militants took advantage of the fact that many Kurds had relaxed their guard for the holiday marking the end of Ramadan.
• The US was pressuring the UN Security Council to extend Iraq's oil-for-food program only for two weeks. Extensions usually last six months, but the US seeks to rule out nerve gas antidotes and equipment with military applications that Iraq also imports with its oil revenues.
Hard-line supporters of Iran's Islamic regime declared a "holy war" on would-be reformers of the rigidly conservative political and social system. The declaration, in a weekly newspaper close to the vigilante group Ansar-e-Hizbullah, followed days of demonstrations last month by students angered at the death sentence against a popular pro-reform university professor. At the time, Ayatollah Ali Kahmenei, Iran's supreme leader, warned that he'd "appeal to the people" if the tensions didn't ease. The call for jihad said reform-minded politicians should be removed from office and replaced by "idealist and religious" officials.
A curfew was imposed in newly independent East Timor after a protest by hundreds of students turned violent, leading to at least two deaths when police fired into the crowd. Twenty-four other people were hurt, and Prime Minister Mari Akkatiri's home was burned to the ground. President Jose Gusmao denied reports that he'd declared a state of emergency. The protesters were demanding the release of a student arrested for his alleged role in gang violence.
The success of a nationwide general strike against the government of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was difficult to gauge Wednesday, although 15 business groups pledged to participate. The strike was called by political opposition leaders after police and hundreds of Aristide supporters broke up anti-government rallies in Port-au-Prince, Cap-Haitien, and other cities with tear gas, rocks, whips, bottles, and metal bars. The anti-Aristide protests have taken place almost daily for three weeks.
All 10 stores of the world's largest furniture retailer were closed across the Netherlands after the chain received a bomb threat in the mail. Bombs were found at IKEA outlets in Amsterdam and a Rotterdam suburb, and two policemen were hurt while defusing them. A similar warning caused the home office of a news agency to be evacuated. Four Islamic militants are on trial in Rotterdam for their alleged roles in recent terrorist-bomb plots.