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Tuesday, 5 November, 2002, 08:43 GMT
Turkish victors set sights on EU
Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a party rally
Erdogan is currently barred from being prime minister
The leader of the Islamist-based Justice and Development Party (AK) has indicated he will renew Turkey's push for European Union membership, after winning an overwhelming victory in Turkey's elections.

We do not have much time

Tayyip Erdogan on EU charm offensive
Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that he would start his tour of EU countries by accepting an invitation to visit Greece, Turkey's long-standing enemy.

Meanwhile, Mr Erdogan can only hope to become prime minister if a constitutional court hearing in two weeks' time lifts a ban on him taking a seat in parliament.

Istanbul traders on Monday
Markets wavered and then rallied
Despite securing a clear parliamentary majority with 34.2% of the vote, the AK - which is only a year old - faces a battle on several fronts for acceptance within the political establishment.

Apart from the action in the constitutional court, a prosecutor is seeking to ban AK on the grounds that its leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has a criminal record and is therefore not eligible to be a party chairman.

AK will also be under the close scrutiny of the Turkish military, whose head, General Hilmi Ozkok, arrived in Washington for talks on Monday.

Courting the EU

World reaction to the result has been muted. US Under-Secretary of State Marc Grossman said Washington "looked forward to working with the new government".

The European Union was cautious, encouraging Ankara to implement reforms required before negotiations on EU membership can begin.

Some reforms - including improved rights for the country's sizeable Kurdish minority and an end to the death penalty in peacetime - have already been achieved, but the EU has so far declined to set a date for talks.

The prime minister of Turkey's old rival Greece, Costas Simitis, was the first foreign leader to congratulate Mr Erdogan, who in turn said he was planning to visit Athens within seven to 10 days.

Greece has emerged as Turkey's biggest backer in its efforts to get an accession timetable secured at next month's EU summit in Copenhagen.

"We don't have much time," said Mr Erdogan.

Bulent Ecevit casts his ballot
Bulent Ecevit will continue as caretaker prime minister
Outgoing Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit - whose party got only 1.2% of the vote - handed in his resignation to President Ahmet Necdet Sezer on Monday.

He was asked to continue as a caretaker until a new government was in place.

"I hope this party respects the secular and democratic regime," he said.

Threat of war

Mr Erdogan has insisted that his party stands for democratic freedoms and human rights and will not impose Islam on anyone.

The BBC's Nick Thorpe in Ankara says the AK victory has great significance for the region, with the threat of war hanging over Iraq on Turkey's eastern border.

Asked about the possibility of a war with Iraq. Mr Erdogan told Turkish television: "We do not want blood, tears and death."

But he has indicated that he would support action against Iraq if it has UN approval.

The AK party will have 363 of the 550 seats in parliament - just four seats short of the two-thirds needed to change the constitution, but enough to form the next government on its own.

It was one of only two parties to cross the 10% threshold required to enter parliament.

The staunchly secular Republican People's Party was the only other party to win representation, with 19.3% of the vote, giving it 178 seats.

Economic crisis

Mr Erdogan's success came amid widespread anger at the government, whom many Turks blame for the economic crisis of the past two years.

He has warned of the need to re-examine the International Monetary Fund's plans for the Turkish economy.

Turkey's financial markets wavered before bouncing back above Friday's close.

Elections were called 18 months early after the coalition government collapsed due to bitter in-fighting and Mr Ecevit's prolonged illness.

The BBC's James Robbins
"Most Turks are simply desperate for change"
Dr Murat Mercan, AK party spokesman:
"He has to be accredited the victory"
Turkey's election

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04 Nov 02 | Business
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