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Turkish PM to Gadhafi: Leave power now

By Ivan Watson, CNN
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Turkish PM to Gadhafi: Step down
  • Turkey has closed its Tripoli embassy, citing risk
  • Ankara mediated the release of the detained New York Times reporters
  • Rebels have slammed Turkey's ties to the Libyan leader

Istanbul (CNN) -- Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Tuesday called for embattled Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi to step down.

"A new period started in the history of Libya. Words ran out on the Libya matter," Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul.

"At this point what needs to be done is for Moammar Gadhafi, who is holding the government in Tripoli in Libya to leave power immediately and to fulfill his historical and humanitarian responsibility."

Libya has been embroiled in war between pro-Gadhafi and opposition forces, with NATO using air power to enforce a U.N. Security Council resolution to protect civilians threatened by Gadhafi troops.

Celebrations in Benghazi
Gallery: The Gadhafi family
  • Moammar Gadhafi
  • Libya

Erdogan's words come a day after Turkey shuttered its embassy in Tripoli and evacuated its ambassador and diplomats to Tunisia, citing an increase in risk.

Turkey traditionally has had close trade ties with Libya, and that relationship has helped it serve as a mediator.

For example, Turkish diplomats helped negotiate the release of the four captured New York Times journalists and later escorted them to the Tunisian border.

Gadhafi even once presented Erdogan with a human rights award. But Turkey has also come under fire from the opposition forces in the Libyan city of Benghazi as a result of this relationship.

Demonstrators staged an angry protest at the Turkish consulate in Benghazi several weeks ago, throwing rocks and reportedly burning a Turkish flag. The rebel council there also refused to allow a Turkish ship dock in Benghazi in protest.

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