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Turkish prime minister steps down

June 18, 1997
Web posted at: 5:03 p.m. EDT (2103 GMT)

ANKARA, Turkey (CNN) -- Fundamentalist Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan resigned Wednesday in an attempt to calm Turkey's military's fears about his Islamist policies.

President Suleyman Demirel accepted Erbakan's resignation and asked him to stay on as caretaker while he decides who to tap in his place.

Former prime minister Tansu Ciller, leader of the pro-Western True Path Party, joined Erbakan to announce that the ultra-nationalist Great Unity Party had agreed to support a new government with Ciller at the helm.

But it was unclear if Demirel would designate Ciller, and it was uncertain that she could win a confidence vote in the Parliament if she were chosen.

New elections likely will be held in three to four months.

Erbakan's party was the top vote-getter, with 21 percent, in 1995 elections. His Islamic Welfare Party allied with Ciller's party to form the current government.

But in 11 months in office, Erbakan has come under increasing opposition from Turkey's powerful generals, who consider themselves the protectors of a modern, secular Turkey.

Last week, the military issued a stern warning that it would use force if necessary to stop an Islamic threat to the secular republic.

"I resigned because I am a true patriot," Erbakan said Wednesday. "I am guaranteeing the future of the country by coming up with an alternative government."

The military may not be satisfied with the compromise, however, since it leaves Islamic Welfare Party members in key Cabinet positions.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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