The new appointments followed a four-day annual meeting of the Supreme Military Council (YAS) [Reuters]

Turkey's president has appointed four new generals to lead the country's armed forces, nearly a week after four senior generals quit in protest against the government.

Abdullah Gul approved the appointments on Thursday, during a major gathering of Turkey's Supreme Military Council, which reviews annually the promotion prospects of senior officers, a presidential spokesman said. The appointees will take up the posts after the cabinet approves the promotions.

The announcement comes nearly a week after four leading generals quit in protest at the jailing of hundreds of their colleagues charged in an alleged plot to overthrow the government.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, visited military headquarters early on Thursday to sign off on the promotion decisions in what is NATO's second-largest army. The signing followed the conclusion of the four-day military meeting.

General Necdet Ozel, previously head of the military police, was named the new chief of general staff for the country's armed forces.

Shock departure

The shock departure last Friday of Ozel's predecessor, Isik Kosaner, and the heads of the ground forces, navy and air force, brought into sharp focus years of tensions between the secularist military and Erdogan's AK party.

About one tenth of the army's generals are in custody over an alleged plot presented at an army seminar in 2003, to involve plans to bomb mosques and provoke tensions with Greece, in order to spark political chaos and justify a military takeover.

Seventeen generals and admirals currently in line for promotion were among those jailed in the "Sledgehammer" plot prosecutions. Altogether nearly 200 officers were charged with conspiracy.

The suspects face between 15 and 20 years in jail, though the case has been marred by serious doubts over the authenticity of some implicating documents.

The officers' resignations have enabled Erdogan to tighten his control over a military force that once reigned supreme in Turkish politics but had its powers curbed dramatically by Erdogan as he pushed through EU-backed reforms to strengthen democracy.

Erdogan's party, which won a third term in elections on June 12 in a landslide victory, has said its key goal is to replace a military-era constitution with a more democratic one.

But critics say AK has a secret Islamist agenda, an allegation it denies.
   
The erosion of the army's influence has consigned to history the power which enabled it to stage three coups since 1960 and most recently pressure an Islamist-led government out of office in 1997.

Source: Agencies