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Friday, 17 May, 2002, 14:29 GMT 15:29 UK
Turkish premier back in hospital
Turkish PM Bulent Ecevit
Ecevit: Health concerns over the past few years
Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit has been readmitted to hospital, two weeks after being treated for severe stomach and back pains.

His doctor, Mehmet Haberal, said though there was "nothing serious to worry about" regarding Mr Ecevit's condition, he would have to remain in hospital for at least a week.

Mr Ecevit has had to postpone trips to Pakistan and Afghanistan set for late next week, his spokesman said.

News of his hospitalisation stoked concerns that the three-way coalition he heads could fall apart - prompting fresh elections, which analysts say the governing parties would be unlikely to win.

The Turkish stock market reacted with a 3% fall on the benchmark index.

Fragile government

Mr Ecevit was confined to his home on 4 May with an intestinal infection and back pains.

Since then Turkish newspapers and commentators have called insistently for him to step down.

Turkish Grand National Assembly, Ankara
The government coalition is held together by Ecevit

The prime minister acknowledged the frailty of the ruling coalition - composed of his own centre-left party and two parties on the right - on his release from hospital earlier this month.

He warned that were he to resign for health reasons the collapse of the coalition would do further damage to the country's economy.

Market skitters

Turkey has already suffered a slump in unemployment and production, sparked by an economic crisis that hit in February 2001.

Opinion polls suggest that has turned voters away from the coalition parties in droves.

An election now would probably put the moderate Islamist party, the AKP, in charge.

The AKP has opposed the intervention in Turkey by the International Monetary Fund since the crisis, and the prospect of its electoral victory sends skitters through the financial markets.

See also:

08 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Turkey
21 Feb 02 | Business
Analysis: Turkey's year of crisis
07 Jul 01 | Europe
Turkish leader rounds on IMF
29 Apr 01 | Europe
Ecevit retains party leadership
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