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Monday, 12 August, 2002, 10:09 GMT 11:09 UK
Dervis tests Turkey's political waters
Kemal Dervis (left) and  Ismail Cem, leader of newly formed political party, the New Turkey
Dervis held talks with the leader of New Turkey
Turkey's former economy minister Kemal Dervis on Sunday met rivals of Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit in an apparent attempt to forge a political alliance ahead of general elections on 3 November.

The move comes just a day after Mr Dervis, who was charged with leading Turkey out of its worst economic crisis in modern times, resigned from his post.

In his first statement since stepping down, Mr Dervis promised to work with ex-Foreign Minister Ismail Cem and his New Turkey Party (YTP), a centre-left movement he has implied he may join.
Bulent Ecevit
Prime Minister Ecevit is fighting to hold his government together

At a time when a pro-Islamic party tops opinion polls, Mr Dervis said he would work to build a new secular coalition that reflected modern social liberal principles.

"We are continuing to act together," Mr Dervis said after meeting Mr Cem in Istanbul. "We have to think strategically and work very seriously."

He has also stressed the importance of political stability as the United States considers military action against neighbouring Iraq.

Political blow

Mr Dervis' resignation was yet another serious blow to Mr Ecevit, who has been battling to hold his government together.

Mr Dervis' guidance was crucial in securing a $16bn loan backed by the International Monetary Fund, as Turkey struggles to recover from its worst recession since World War II.

Turkey's economic problems have been compounded by the unstable political situation.

Turkey's political crisis
May 2002 - Prime Minister Ecevit falls ill but refuses to step down as leader
25 June - Mr Ecevit faces the first of many calls to quit from dissidents in his own party
Early July - More than 60 members of Mr Ecevit's DSP party resign, including Foreign Minister Ismail Cem and Deputy Prime Minister Husamettin Ozkan
12 July - Ismail Cem creates the New Turkey Party
31 July - Parliament votes to hold early elections, despite objections from Mr Ecevit
Mr Ecevit has named Masum Turker, a deputy from his own Democratic Left Party, as the new economy minister.

Mr Turker quickly stressed that he is committed to push ahead with economic reforms which are required to retain support from the International Monetary Fund.

"It will be our single-option economic policy.

"Moves that could damage confidence or any other different practices will not be allowed," he said.

Mr Dervis' resignation had been widely expected and therefore it did not have much impact on Turkey's unstable financial markets when trading resumed on Monday.

The IMKB index of leading Turkish shares was down 1.3% in early trading.

We're not expecting any panic," analyst Ismail Erdem of Finansbank said.

The departure of Mr. Dervis was expected and the [economic recovery] program does not depend on one person."

New leader?

Mr Ecevit reportedly told Mr Dervis on Friday that he should make up his mind whether he wanted to remain in his post or continue with his initiative to unite Turkey's fractured centre-left.

In recent weeks Mr Dervis - a former World Bank official - has been holding behind-the-scenes talks with rivals of the prime minister.

Mr Dervis has resigned once already, amid a political crisis in July during which more than 60 legislators quit Mr Ecevit's party, triggering a sharp fall in the value of Turkey's currency.

But hours later, he withdrew his resignation - after reportedly being persuaded to stay on by President Ahmet Necdet Sezer.

Elections called

Last week, the prime minister was forced to call elections for 3 November - 18 months ahead of schedule - to break the political deadlock which has virtually paralysed his government.

Mr Dervis has made no secret of his support for Mr Cem and the New Turkey Party.

The two men, popular pro-Western figures, have been dubbed Turkey's "Dream Team".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jane Bennett-Powell
"The Prime Minister... has pressed Mr Dervis to make a choice"

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10 Aug 02 | Europe
10 Aug 02 | Europe
07 Aug 02 | Europe
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