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Wednesday, July 7, 1999 Published at 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK


World: Europe

Turkish minister in mystery suicide bid

Mr Ulugbay (right) with IMF delegation chief Carlo Cottarelli

Turkey's economy minister has shot himself at his home just days after a scandal surrounding a leaked IMF document that led to alleged insider trading.

Hikmet Ulugbay, 60, survived with injuries to the face following three hours of surgery.

According to his wife, Mr Ulugbay shot himself with a Smith & Wesson in his study after listening to the late news.

His family rushed to his private study as he was about to fire a second time, but the shot missed when his son Burak seized the revolver.

The first bullet injured Mr Ulugbay's chin, mouth and tongue, but there was no damage to the brain.

Doctors said his life was not in danger following surgery at Ankara's Baskent hospital in the early hours of Wednesday.

Leaked document

Mr Ulugbay, 60, an MP from Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit's Democratic Left Party, recently conducted two weeks of talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to try and secure funds that would help attract foreign investment.

He was said to be saddened by a reported leak of a secret IMF document to a brokerage firm owned by a cousin of former prime minister Mesut Yilmaz, a coalition partner in the government.

The firm allegedly used the information to manipulate stock.

Mr Yilmaz said he was shown the secret documents by Mr Ulugbay himself, but denied accusations that he passed details to market traders.

Sense of responsibility

The prime minister rejected press reports that Mr Ulugbay's suicide attempt may have been linked to the affair.

''This is an ugly and untrue allegation...We cannot know the reason, but Mr Ulugbay is a man with an extraordinarily strong sense of responsibility.

''The IMF talks really tired him out," Mr Ecevit added after visiting the minister in hospital.

The government has denied allegations of insider trading.

But Treasury Under Secretary Cuneyt Sel resigned from his post last week after claims he leaked the document to former Economy Minister Gunes Taner, who reportedly gave it to Mr Yilmaz.

Uncertainty over Mr Ulugbay's suicide attempt upset the Istanbul stock market with the index dropping nearly 4% in the first few minutes of trading on Wednesday.

"What the market wants to know is why Ulugbay wanted to commit suicide," said one trader.

The BBC correspondent in Ankara, Chris Morris, says that at the moment there is no indication that Mr Ulugbay - one of the most respected ministers in the government - has done anything illegal.



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