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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 August 2007, 17:10 GMT 18:10 UK
Turkish leader approves cabinet
Recep Tayyip Erdogan before a portrait of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
Mr Erdogan has pledged to respect Turkey's secular values
New Turkish President Abdullah Gul has approved a cabinet submitted by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the Islamist-rooted AK Party.

The new cabinet is said to unite secular and Islamic-minded politicians.

The AK party won a huge majority in July polls triggered by a row over its plans to nominate Mr Gul as president.

Mr Gul, a former Islamist, was elected president on Tuesday amid warnings from the powerful military of a threat to Turkey's deeply secular constitution.

The presidency - like the military - has traditionally been a bastion of secularism in Turkey.

Mr Gul ratified Mr Erdogan's cabinet when the two men met on Wednesday afternoon in Ankara.

Prime Minister Erdogan has said his government will respect the separation of religion and state enshrined in Turkey's constitution.

Opposition parties are expected to examine whether his choice of cabinet members lives up to this promise.

Boost for EU talks

Mr Gul, a foreign minister in the previous AK Party government, established himself as a skilled diplomat by steering Turkey towards European Union entry talks.

Hayrunisa and Abdullah Gul
Mr Gul's wife has been criticised for wearing the headscarf

He is the first politician with an Islamist background to become president since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded modern Turkey as a secular, Western-oriented state in 1923.

He was sworn in on Tuesday after a third round of voting in parliament, which he won by a clear majority.

He took his oath at a ceremony in parliament, pledging loyalty to democracy and to the secular Republic.

"As long as I am in office, I will embrace all our citizens without any bias," he said.

Mr Gul, whose wife wears a Muslim headscarf, has pledged to respect Turkey's secular institutions.

The headscarf is currently banned from public institutions in Turkey, but Mr Gul has said wearing it is a matter of personal choice.

The European Union welcomed Mr Gul's election, calling it a positive step in the country's campaign to join the bloc.

Turkey was made a candidate for EU membership in October 2005, but the talks are blocked on a number of fronts.

Military anxiety

Turkey's military chief warned on Monday that "centres of evil" were trying to undermine the state.

Gen Yasar Buyukanit did not name those he said were "trying to corrode the secular nature of the Turkish Republic" but analysts said the statement was clearly aimed at Mr Gul, a devout Muslim.

The army, which sees itself as the guardian of Turkey's secularism, has ousted four governments in the past 60 years.

Gen Yasar Buyukanit (archive)
The army sees itself as the guardian of Turkey's secularism

In April, the army expressed its concern after Mr Gul only narrowly failed to gain enough support from MPs to become president.

Secularist politicians also organised mass demonstrations by their supporters in an effort to block Mr Gul's presidential bid.

The stand-off between the AKP and secularist parties triggered a political crisis that led to snap elections in July.

The AKP won those polls convincingly with 47% and again nominated Mr Gul for the post of president.

Turkey's military and secular establishment suspect he might harbour a secret Islamist agenda.

The founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, banished religious influence from public life when he founded the modern Western-style republic on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.


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