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The BBC's Chris Morris in Ankara
"Very clear that the Turkish military expects action"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 23 August, 2000, 19:08 GMT 20:08 UK
Turkey moves against Islamists
Military top brass with Bulent Ecevit
The army call the shots from the sidelines in Turkey
Turkey's influential National Security Council, which brings together top political and military leaders, has said there is an urgent need to dismiss civil servants linked to separatist or radical Islamist groups.

The council said new regulations should be introduced as quickly as possible to help protect Turkey's unity and its secular system - a statement that some have interpreted as a veiled warning from the military to the country's civilian rulers.


The president, of course unintentionally, has encouraged the enemies of the regime

Government statement

The Security Council's intervention comes as the new Turkish president, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, is involved in a bitter dispute with members of the government over how such a policy should be implemented.

The government wants to issue a special decree, but the president has insisted that parliament should pass legislation.

"Unconstitutional"

On Tuesday Mr Sezer, a former jurist outspoken in his defence of civil liberties, refused for the second time to approve a decree authorising such dismissals on the grounds that it was unconstitutional.

PM Ecevit and the military
Prime Minister Ecevit (foreground) has the backing of the military
He said that he did not oppose measures to protect secularism and state unity so long as parliament has approved them.

The government responded by accusing the president of hindering the fight against radical Islam.

"The president, of course unintentionally, has encouraged the enemies of the regime", a government statement said.

A Turkish journalist for the Cumhuriyet newspaper, Cuneyt Arcayurek, commented that the army was not taking sides in the dispute but "wants to see concrete results. The generals are telling the civilians to introduce the measures quickly, whatever the method", he said.

Union opposition

Parliament is in recess until October unless a special session is called, which means there may be no immediate action.

But the council meeting has made it clear that the military wants action on an issue which it has been pressing for some time.

The decree is one that the army pressed the Islamist-dominated coalition in power in 1997 to introduce.

The army has mounted three coups since 1960 and its demands are rarely ignored by the government.

Nevertheless, the proposal to sack what could be thousands of civil servants, will be bitterly opposed by trades unions and human rights groups.

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See also:

01 Apr 99 | Middle East
Turkish police seize 400 Islamists
26 Jan 00 | Europe
Analysis: Can Turkey fit in?
25 Aug 98 | Middle East
Turkey Bans The Islamists
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