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Saturday, 16 November, 2002, 20:58 GMT
New Turkish PM spells out plans
Abdullah Gul (centre)
Abdullah Gul (centre) is liked by the markets
The new Turkish Prime Minister, Abdullah Gul, has said that the economy, resolving the conflict in Cyprus and taking Turkey into the European Union will be the priorities of his administration.

Abdullah Gul
Born 1950, in Kayseri
Studied economics and became university lecturer
Worked at the Islamic Development Bank
1991: Became an MP for the Welfare Party
1995: Minister for foreign relations
2000: headed "modernists" in bid for leadership of Virtue Party

Mr Gul, the deputy leader of Islamist-based Justice and Development Party (AK), was appointed by President Ahmet Necdet Sezer on Saturday.

However, the party's leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan - who is barred from power because of a 1998 conviction for inciting religious hatred - has sparked confusion about policy on Cyprus by saying that Turkey and Cyprus should join the EU simultaneously.

The AK Party won a landslide victory on 3 November, securing 363 of 550 seats in parliament.

The party has tried to distance itself from its Islamic roots and has sought to reassure the West and the European Union.

Surprise statement

Mr Gul, a pro-Western economist, is expected to form the country's first single-party government in 15 years.

"Of course, our priority will be Cyprus and the EU," he told the NTV channel on Saturday.

"We will take concrete steps on the EU issue. Then we have economic problems at home."

Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Erdogan could soon be prime minister

As Mr Gul was announcing these priorities, Mr Erdogan flew to Cyprus, where he met leaders of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot administration.

Mr Erdogan gave full support to a new UN plan to reunite the two sides of the island.

But he surprised observers by saying adoption of the plan would delay Cyprus's EU membership, and by calling "on all world leaders for Cyprus and Turkey to be admitted to the European Union simultaneously".

He told a news conference: "We say yes to entering together."

Correspondents say the statement is an apparent departure from Turkish policy.

Cyprus, whose northern third was occupied by Turkey in 1974, is poised to be invited to become a member by 2004 at a EU summit in Denmark next month.

Turkey, for its part, has not even been given a firm date for opening accession talks with the EU.

EU leaders have said Turkey must first implement more reforms to catch up with European standards.

Interim PM?

Earlier, Mr Erdogan pledged to improve Turkey's human rights record, including penalties to deter torture - which has long been an obstacle to Ankara's EU ambitions.

He also promised to privatise state enterprises and reform taxes.

"We are building a new world and this new world will bring the East and West together in Turkey," Mr Erdogan said.

He also announced plans to reform the education system - a sensitive area which correspondents say Turkey's secular establishment will be monitoring closely.

Analysts say Mr Gul's appointment as prime minister may be temporary - AK lawmakers are expected to push for a change in the constitution to allow Mr Erdogan to head the government.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
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16 Nov 02 | Europe
13 Nov 02 | Europe
21 Oct 02 | Europe
08 Nov 02 | Europe
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