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Thursday, 27 June, 2002, 11:02 GMT 12:02 UK
Turkish PM rules out early election
Bulent and Rahsan Ecevit
Mr Ecevit has not spoken in public for two months
Turkey's ailing Prime Minister, Bulent Ecevit, has ruled out early elections despite having appeared to hint earlier that they could be brought forward.


We are definitely not considering early elections, an election before April 2004 is out of the question

Bulent Ecevit
He was quoted at a party meeting in the capital, Ankara, as saying that though he did not want to see early elections, an election was "on the horizon".

He also urged his party's MPs to spend the summer with their voters.

Reporters took this as a sign that Mr Ecevit was acknowledging the possibility of early elections, but the 77-year-old prime minister later said his words had been misinterpreted.

"An election before April 2004 is out of the question," he said.

Mr Ecevit has been under pressure from the opposition to step down as a long list of ailments have kept him away from the office since early May.

Thursday's speech was his first in public for two months.

Mr Ecevit said some of his health problems had been "nearly solved" and he would be back at work within three weeks.

But correspondents say he was apparently unable to walk up the steps to deliver his speech from the podium and had to speak into microphones on the floor.

Recovery programme

Earlier this week a group of MPs from Mr Ecevit's own Democratic Left Party, concerned about increasing divisions within the three-party governing coalition, called on him to step down from the party leadership.

Mr Ecevit has argued that early elections would derail an economic recovery programme backed by $16bn in loans from the International Monetary Fund, and could endanger Turkey's progress towards membership of the EU.

The prime minister has been suffering from intestinal problems, a vein infection, a cracked rib and a spinal injury - but has insisted in the past that he will remain in office, and that there will be no election until the scheduled date of 2004.

Markets have been nervous in recent weeks, with stocks falling amid speculation that the government would collapse if Mr Ecevit's health forced him to quit.

See also:

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