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New Prime Minister Maps Moderate Path for Turkey

<i> From Reuters</i>

New Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, an Islamist governing with a pro-Western coalition ally, set out a moderate plan of action Saturday that was far from his often radical manifesto.

Erbakan charted a middle way between East and West in foreign policy, espoused free-market reforms and paid homage to the country’s secularist founder, Kemal Ataturk.

“Cooperation with both the West and with the Islamic, Central Asian and Balkan countries with which we have spiritual and historic links will be increased,” Erbakan said at a presentation of his new Cabinet.

Erbakan became the first Islamist leader of Muslim but secular Turkey on Friday in a coalition with conservative leader and former Prime Minister Tansu Ciller, a U.S.-educated technocrat with close personal and political ties to the West.

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Ciller is Erbakan’s deputy and foreign minister under a four-year rotating-premiership arrangement in which the Islamist is taking the top job for the first two years.

The Turkish establishment, led by the military, fears that Erbakan’s Welfare Party will impose religion on public life and break Turkey, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, from the Western camp. But there was little sign of that in the coalition accord read out by Erbakan.

The alliance’s plans to tame inflation and cut gaping deficits clearly reflect Ciller’s liberal economic slant.

In a reference to a recently signed military deal with Israel, he said he will abide by previous international agreements, “but permission will not be given for implementations that are against national security and national interests.”

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The alliance was formed after nine months of political chaos following Ciller’s resignation as the head of a left-right alliance in September.


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