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Turkish military warns government

Tension is rising between the secular Turkish military and the country’s  Islamic government as the two bodies traded criticisms on Monday.

Last Modified: 26 May 2003 16:07 GMT

Tension is rising between the secular Turkish military and the country’s  Islamic government as the two bodies traded criticisms on Monday.

There have been rising concerns
that the Turkish military will
spearhead another coup in Turkey
Chief of General Staff Hilmi Ozkok told a small group of local journalists there was concern at all levels of the armed forces that the government is appointing Islamists to important positions in the bureaucracy

 

"Ozkok said he was worried at appointments recently of compromised individuals involved in radical religious activities," journalist Fikret Bila told the CNN Turk channel after the briefing.

 

Turkey's generals often summon a hand-picked group of senior columnists for mainstream Turkish newspapers to a private briefing when they have a message they want to make public.

 

The press conference followed an article in the major daily, Cumhuriyet, that wrote that young officers were "uneasy" about the ruling Justice and Progress Party's (AKP), policies.

 

The article Friday sparked rumors of a possible military coup as well as a possible rift between Ozkok and the lower ranks which are often regarded as being nationalist and reactionary.

 

Turkey's influential armed forces see themselves as defenders of Muslim Turkey's secular system and have staged three coups since 1960. They also pressured the country's first Islamist-led government from power in 1997.

 

Turkish newspapers have reported in recent weeks that friction is mounting between the secular-minded military and the AKP which traces its roots to Turkey's Islamist movement.

 

But Bila said that Ozkok ruled out the possibility of a coup and reaffirmed the military's support for Turkey's aim to join the European Union.

 

Government retort

 

Gul played down the
row, calling press
reports 'insane'
Also today, the country’s foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, hit out at "insane" press reports of growing tensions between the government and army over reforms designed to support Turkey's bid for European Union membership.

  

"These discussions are not worthy of Turkey," Gul told a press conference as he left for an EU-Mediterranean conference on the Greek island of Crete.

  

"It is sad that these kind of insane discussions take place in Turkey."

 

Gul was speaking after centre-left Cumhuriyet newspaper reported last week that army chief Hilmi Ozkok told Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that a package of planned reforms Turkey must make if it is to enter the European Union, could encourage radical Islamist and separatist movements.

 

Erdogan himself slammed the reports as "made-up" on Sunday, saying they were the result of deliberate attempts by unnamed political opponents to stir trouble.

  

The reforms, which have yet to be presented to parliament, would allow private radio and television stations to broadcast in Kurdish, lift restrictions preventing children being given Kurdish names and abolish a law against "propagating separatism", often used to jail Kurdish rights activists.
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