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Turkey's prime minister will sue over diplomat's remarks

By Tim Lister, CNN
  • Erdogan calls on the U.S. to take action against those who "slandered" him
  • He says he has no money in Swiss accounts
  • A U.S. diplomatic cable painted a less-than-flattering portrait of the prime minister

(CNN) -- As the fallout continues from the release of thousands of diplomatic cables on the WikiLeaks website, Turkey's prime minister is threatening to file a lawsuit over comments made about him in one of the messages by the U.S. ambassador to his country.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he plans to sue over remarks from then-Ambassador Eric Edelman in 2004 suggesting that the prime minister concealed his wealth in Swiss bank accounts. Visibly angry, Erdogan told an audience in Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday that he wanted the U.S. administration to take action against the diplomats who had "slandered" him.

"The United States should ask its diplomats to make an explanation because no diplomat can accuse a country with slanders and misinterpretations," he said.

"This is the United States' problem, not ours... Those who have slandered us will be crushed under these claims, will be finished and will disappear," Erdogan said later, according to Turkish media reports.

In a cable dated December 12, 2004, the U.S. ambassador in Ankara at the time wrote a less-than-flattering profile of Erdogan, who had recently become prime minister amid anxiety among Western governments about his "Islamist tendencies."

The note sent to Washington by Edelman said the new prime minister's "hunger for power reveals itself in a sharp authoritarian style and deep distrust of others." Erdogan's advisors were characterized as "sycophantic (but contemptuous)" in the missive. The cable also spoke of the prime minister's "susceptibility to Islamist theories."

"He indulges in pronounced pro-Sunni prejudices and in emotional reactions that prevent the development of coherent, practical domestic or foreign policies," the cable added.

CNN calls to Edelman for comment were not immediately returned.

The cable then discussed the alleged bank accounts. While apparently offering no evidence they existed, it continued: "We have heard from two contacts that Erdogan has eight accounts in Swiss banks; his explanations that his wealth comes from the wedding presents guests gave his son and that a Turkish businessman is paying the educational expenses of all four Erdogan children in the U.S. purely altruistically are lame."

Erdogan vowed to resign if it could be shown he had bank accounts in Switzerland.

"I don't have a God's penny in Swiss banks to prove. Now, I am telling the leader of the opposition and others, if such a thing would be proven, I would not stay in this position, I would not remain a parliamentarian."