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Wednesday, 11 December, 2002, 03:12 GMT
Bush backs Turkey's EU efforts
Recep Tayyip Erdogan and George Bush
The US is courting Turkey

US President George Bush has strongly backed Turkey's efforts to join the European Union.

He expressed his support during talks at the White House with the leader of Turkey's ruling party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In a sign of just how seriously the US is courting Turkey, Mr Erdogan was given time not just with President Bush, but with some of his most senior advisers as well.

With a smiling Mr Erdogan close by, the president said the US stood side-by-side with Turkey in its desire to become a member of the European Union.

It is a matter of great strategic importance to the Bush administration.

The US sees Turkey as a potential role model for other predominantly Muslim countries, and believes its embrace of secular democracy should be rewarded and encouraged by EU membership.

In diplomacy, though, there is often a catch.

The US also hopes that backing Turkey's efforts to join the EU will, in turn, lead to Ankara supporting possible military action against Iraq.

For his part, Mr Erdogan said joining the European Union was the most important modernisation project for his country since the creation of the Turkish state after the collapse of the Ottoman empire.

EU member countries are due to discuss enlargement of the union this weekend, though Turkey is not expected to be given a chance a join anything like as early as it would like to.


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