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Chris Morris reports from Istanbul
"The corruption investigations are making everyone extremely nervous"
 real 28k

Haluk Shaheen, Journalist with the left-wing Radikal
"I think this is the boiling point of animosity"
 real 28k

Monday, 19 February, 2001, 17:55 GMT
Turkish political crisis deepens
Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and Deputy Prime Minister Husamettin Ozkan
Bulent Ecevit: Ministers joined him in storming out
Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit has demanded a public apology from the country's president for what Mr Ecevit said was a show of "disrespect".

The prime minister had earlier stormed out of a meeting of political and military leaders, saying that he had been insulted by President Ahmet Necdet Sezer.

Mr Ecevit said President Sezer had "levelled grave accusations against me, using impolite language" before the start of a meeting of the National Security Council.


The honourable president... levelled grave accusations against me, using impolite language

Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit
The private news channel CNN-Turk said the president had accused the prime minister of being "too passive" in the fight against corruption, of trying to prevent an investigation of the banking sector and of "not respecting" laws.

Allegations of corruption within the banks scared off foreign investors and led to a financial crisis in November, from which markets had only just begun to recover.

The cabinet issued a written statement demanding the apology.

"What is expected from a president obliged constitutionally to oversee the smooth functioning of our state apparatus after such a disgraceful affair is an apology before the public," it read.

"No one, no matter what his position, has the right to show disrespect to our prime minister. Disrespect to the prime minister is disrespect to the cabinet."

Ahmet Necdet Sezer
President Sezer: Frequently at odds with the government
Prime Minister Ecevit has tried to calm financial jitters caused by the row.

The main 100 share index on the Istanbul stock exchange lost more than 14% of its value during the course of the day's trading.

Mr Ecevit said the dispute would not jeopardise the country's stringent anti-inflation programme backed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and said he would be meeting the IMF's deputy director, Stanley Fischer, as scheduled, despite the crisis.

BBC Istanbul correspondent Chris Morris says that both Mr Ecevit and Mr Sezer are seen as honest men, but they preside over a system where corruption is deeply entrenched.

Some investigations have been closing in on people in positions of real power, and President Sezer has made it clear that he believes no one should be deemed untouchable.

Mr Ecevit's main concern is trying to maintain government stability. But the corruption investigations have created a deep sense of unease in Turkish politics.

Inspectors

The prime minister left Monday morning's meeting even before Mr Sezer had finished talking, reports said.

Mr Ecevit commented: "I could either respond to him in the same tone, or I could walk out. Therefore, I opted to leave the meeting.

"The ministers attending the meeting acted in the same manner and walked out of the meeting."

The government is believed to be angered by President Sezer's recent move to appoint a board of inspectors to probe the transactions of state-owned banks over the last 10 years.

The government has taken over 13 troubled banks and financial institutions over the past 18 months.

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See also:

19 Feb 01 | Business
Turkish stocks plunge
06 Dec 00 | Business
IMF agrees Turkish loans
15 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Turkey
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