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Monday, November 30, 1998 Published at 15:05 GMT

World: Europe

Turkish military warns politicians

Mesut Yilmaz's government was ousted by parliament

The Turkish military has warned political leaders not to drag it into the debate over the formation of a new government.

A brief statement from Turkey's general staff said politicians must "show the necessary care and sensitivity" and should not speculate publicly about which party the armed forces would favour.

BBC Ankara Correspondent Chris Morris says that when the military issues a public warning of this kind, everyone sits up and takes notice.

The statement said the armed forces did not favour one party over another. However, it is common knowledge that the High Command distrusts the Islamist movement and sees itself as the guardian of Turkey's strict secular system.

Pressure from the military, which traditionally prefers secular government, led to the fall of the country's first Islamist coalition last year.

Building a new government

The statement came as leading military and political figures prepared for a meeting of the National Security Council to discuss recent developments.

Politicians are in the process of negotiating a new coalition to replace the minority anti-Islamist alliance which collapsed last week.

The pro-Islamist Virtue Party is currently the largest party in parliament and it could perform well again if an early election is held next year.

Most political parties favour an early election and parliament has already set a date in April, but the military is thought to favour postponing the election until 2000.

The armed forces have been frustrated at the inability of Turkey's secular politicians to work together in an effective government.

Our correspondent says the statement is another reminder of the real source of much of Turkey's political power - in times of crisis, many people look to the military whether it likes it or not.

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