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Last Updated: Monday, 18 April 2005, 10:55 GMT 11:55 UK
Profile: Mehmet Ali Talat
By Tabitha Morgan
BBC News, Nicosia

Mehmet Ali Talat (right) and his Oya Necmi
Political pair: Mehmet Ali Talat's wife Oya is also in politics
Mehmet Ali Talat faces many problems as he takes over the presidency of the unrecognised Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

High on the list is how to step out of the very considerable shadow cast by his predecessor, veteran Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.

Mr Denktash, by virtue of his dominant position in Turkish Cypriot politics for more than half a century, is a hard act to follow.

But Mr Talat is by no means a carbon copy of his predecessor. Where Mr Denktash could bring a crowd to its feet by his emotive nationalist oratory, the new president is softly spoken - coming across as a reserved and reasonable politician.

As for political vision, the contrast is still greater.

Reunification

While Mr Denktash campaigned for northern Cyprus to be recognised as an independent state, Mr Talat wants to see Cyprus reunited, with the Turkish Cypriots joining their Greek Cypriot compatriots in the European Union.

Rauf Denktash

Also, by eastern Mediterranean standards, Mr Talat is a youngster. Born in 1952 and raised in a farming family near the northern port of Kyrenia, he became involved in left-wing politics while studying at Ankara University in Turkey in the 1970s.

Back in Cyprus, having graduated in electrical engineering, he joined the centre-left Republican Turkish Party (CTP). To pay his way, he used his newly acquired technical skills to repair refrigerators and air conditioners.

But the tug of politics was strong, and Mr Talat was soon able to abandon his spanners and screwdrivers and become a leading figure on the Northern Cyprus political stage.

In 1998, he was elected to parliament. Subsequently he held a number of ministerial positions.

Goals

When Turkish Cypriots went to the polls in February 2004, Mr Talat's CTP won 19 of the 50 seats. He was widely credited with leading a successful campaign in northern Cyprus to accept a UN-brokered plan to reunite the island.

The Greek Cypriots' rejection of the plan in a referendum last year, and the subsequent failure of the EU to lift trade restrictions with northern Cyprus are two issues that the new president will now have to address.

In facing them, Mr Talat, a fluent English speaker, will have the support of his wife Oya Necmi, who has also been active in politics for many years.

Success in achieving their political goals and bringing prosperity to the isolated and economically backward north of the island would, more than anything else, enable Mr Talat to shrug off the Denktash legacy.




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