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Turkish PM: U.S. elections hampering Syria action

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 3:26 PM EDT, Wed September 5, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • CNN's Christiane Amanpour interviews the Turkish prime minister in Istanbul
  • Erdogan talks about the crisis in Syria, Iran's suspected nuclear program
  • American "elections ... might be the root cause of the lacking of initiative," he says

(CNN) -- Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the United States is "lacking of initiative" on Syria and suggested that could be because of the upcoming U.S. election.

During a wide-ranging interview in Istanbul with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Erdogan discussed the 18-month crisis in Syria and touched on a number of other topics, including Iran's suspected nuclear program.

"Right now, there are certain things being expected from the United States. The United States had not yet catered to those expectations," the prime minister said when asked whether he was surprised the United States is not offering anything but "nonlethal support" to the Syrian opposition.

"Maybe it's because of the elections -- maybe it's because of the pre-election situation in the States. Might be the root cause of the lacking of initiative. Nobody has spoken to us about their reasons, and they are not obliged to state anything. We are very thankful and pleased they have stated that they're against this regime," he said through a translator.

Erdogan has been prime minister since 2003. The leader of a political movement with Islamist roots, he established himself as an influential voice and a power broker across the region. He has gained popularity in the Arab world, as well as in Turkey, for his criticism of Israel's actions in the Palestinian territory of Gaza.

He has taken a strong stand against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, hosting opposition leaders and refugees from Syria. Erdogan has called on the U.N. Security Council to declare a no-fly zone along the Turkey-Syria border.

Turkey hardens military position after Syria downs jet

So far, about 80,000 Syrian refugees have sought sanctuary in Turkey. Ankara has also hosted groups opposed to al-Assad, and is a vital transport route for opposition fighters and weapons into Syria.

When asked what he thought the biggest danger to Turkey was, Erdogan reinforced what Western nations have been saying about weapons of mass destruction.

"Well, the biggest danger, not only for Turkey but for the entire region and the world is ... the employment of weapons of mass destruction and chemical ones, of course. If a slightest suggestion of such an attempt should emerge, not only in Turkey, but the attitude of the entire globe is going to change forever," he said.

Syria's foreign ministry has said the country has chemical or biological weapons, but would never use them against its citizens -- only against foreign attackers.

The statement drew harsh condemnation from world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, who said the Syrian government would risk crossing a "red line" and invite U.S. military intervention if it uses chemical weapons. Obama is running for re-election in November.

Switching gears to talk about Iran's suspected nuclear program, Erdogan said he does not believe Israel will launch a full-scale attack against Tehran.

The United States and other Western powers suspect Iran's announced development of nuclear fuel masks efforts to build a nuclear bomb. Iran insists it is producing enriched uranium only for peaceful purposes, to fuel civilian power plants and medical reactors, and it has refused U.N. Security Council demands to halt that work.

"I do not believe Israel will attack Iran in the fashion that you described in your question. It's a very null probability. Otherwise (that) would have caused an apocalypse in the entire region," Erdogan said. "But I'm sure that I don't want to see anything like that happening in the region because in this day and age, that region needs peace and prosperity and stability."

Turkey's energy maneuvers

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