Abdullah Gul, a strong advocate of Turkish European ambitions and close U.S. ties, was named as prime minister on Saturday as his party announced sweeping plans for economic and social reform to meet EU standards.
Gul takes office with Turkey facing critical weeks, mainly regarding its economy and efforts to win a date for European Union entry talks at an EU December summit.
"It's time to start work. From this hour onward it's time to mobilize and work night and day to solve the problems of our people," Gul said after President Ahmet Necdet Sezer invited him to form a government. "The government will be ready by Monday," he said, according to Reuters.
A trained economist, Gul is a close confidant of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the Justice and Development Party, which swept Nov. 3 elections. He speaks good English, is well known in Ankara diplomatic circles.
He was a member of Turkey's first Islamist-led government, forced from power after a year in 1997 by an army-led pressure campaign.
On Saturday, it was Erdogan who announced the new government's action plan. He promised a series of changes in laws to expand freedom of religion and expression and promote a more transparent government. He also said that privatization would be accelerated.
"Our government will provide urgent solutions to problems that have been piling up for years," Erdogan said. "We've said 'from now on, nothing will be the same in Turkey'; now we're at the beginning of those days."
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )