he alliance is to dispatch Awacs radar planes

The alliance is to dispatch Awacs radar planes, Patriot anti-missile batteries and chemical and biological response units to Turkey - the only Nato member that borders Iraq.

The Turkish Government, meanwhile, has failed to reach a decision on whether to allow tens of thousands of American troops to be stationed on Turkish soil, which could enable America to invade Iraq from the north.

As diplomatic differences over how to deal with Iraq continued, US Secretary of State Colin Powell raised the stakes by implicitly accusing France of being afraid to use force.

France has been among the most outspoken in urging the US not to rush into combat - although dozens of diplomats lined up at the UN on Tuesday to argue that weapons inspectors should be given more time.

19 February - Private consultations between UN Security Council members
1 March - Hans Blix presents quarterly report at UN on progress of
3-4 March - New moon gives optimum conditions for night fighting in Iraq
14 March- France’s proposed date for UN inspectors to report again to Security Council

Mr Powell warned against stalling indefinitely.

"It cannot be a satisfactory solution for inspections just to continue forever because certain nations are afraid of stepping up to the responsibility of imposing the will of the international community," he told a French radio station.

Washington argues that Iraq has flouted UN resolutions for more than a decade.

Five black and Hispanic youths

On the night of the attack, 19 April 1989, dozens of youths roamed Central Park, harassing cyclists and runners in random attacks known as “wilding”.

The 28-year-old woman was left for dead in a pool of mud and blood, but went on to make a full recovery.

Police car at the crime scene

She has no memory of what happened, preventing her from helping identify any suspects.

Five black and Hispanic youths - Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam and Kharey Wise - were arrested soon after the attack.

They were convicted in 1990 after jurors watched their videotaped confessions.

All were released from prison after serving between seven and 12 years, Reuters news agency reports, apart from Mr Santana, who is still in custody on a separate charge.

Lawyers for the five argued that the “confessions” had been extracted by force and should not have been used in court.

In his confession, Reyes said he had raped the jogger, struck her head with a rock and left her for dead, acting alone all the time.

"I was a monster," he said on TV. "I did some real bad things to so many people and harmed them in so many ways."

DNA tests conducted this May linked him to the rape while failing to establish any connection to the five men convicted.

young white female jogger

The young white female jogger was left for dead in the park, so badly raped and beaten that she remained in a coma for several weeks.

Supporters of the five have been campaigning for their names to be cleared 

Matias Reyes, 31, made his confession from inside prison where he is serving a life sentence for raping three women near Central Park and for raping and killing a pregnant woman. He said he had “found religion”.

Calling for the five convictions to be overturned, Mr Morgenthau also said that their convictions for other attacks in the park that night should be likewise dropped.

Supreme Court Justice Charles Tejada is expected to deliver a ruling by 6 February.

Correspondents say that if the five men are cleared, it will almost certainly open the door to civil suits against the city and mean that the five, most of whom are now in their late 20s, will not have to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.