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Turkish government still standing despite resignations

April 27, 1997
Web posted at: 9:36 a.m. EDT (1336 GMT)

ANKARA, Turkey (CNN) -- Turkish Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan's Islamist-led coalition government was still standing Sunday after government leaders agreed for the second time in two months to implement a wide-ranging reform package pushed by the country's secularist military leaders.

But two of Erbakan's cabinet ministers -- members of former prime minister and now foreign minister Tansu Ciller's pro-Western faction -- resigned before the prime minister's Saturday meeting with the generals.

Industry Minister Yalim Erez and Health Minister Yildirm Aktuna were at odds with Erbakan's reluctance to put the army's measures -- which would curb the influence of Islam in everyday life -- into effect.


"I told Mrs. Ciller that this government wouldn't serve any good to the country and to democracy," Erez said in announcing his resignation.

Ciller, Erbakan's uneasy government partner for the past 10 months, was angry with Erez and Aktuna's resignation.

"It is not up to them to decide over the future of the government," she said.

Ciller joined the prime minister for the meeting Saturday with President Suleyman Demirel and the military-dominated National Security Council, and reportedly told Erbakan to either uphold secularism or disband the coalition.


Among the measures Erbakan agreed to: a ban on Islamist propaganda on television, restrictions on religious dress among students, and closing Islamist-oriented secondary schools, according to a statement released by the Council.

The Council first pressed the measures on Erbakan's government in February. Saturday's meeting was called when military leaders apparently decided he had not moved fast enough to implement the earlier agreement.

Erbakan's drive to bring Islam into Turkish public life has unsettled many. Erez said Saturday that Erbakan's promotion of relations with Iran and other Middle Eastern countries hurts Turkey's chances of full membership in the European Union "because of the impression (he) is giving."

Some observers in Ankara said Erbakan saved his government Saturday, but others said it was just a matter of time before the coalition collapses.

"This government is finished in practice, although it might take some time to die," political analyst Hasan Cemal told Turkish television.

Some of Erbakan's Welfare Party supporters are among those who agree. Some have urged him to disband the coalition and appeal to the voters, but members of parliament are reluctant to go that route.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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