Turkey Warns Iran about Backing Radicals

Published July 2nd, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Turkey's staunchly secular military has issued a series of thinly veiled warnings to Iran not to support radical Islamic circles in Turkey, Cumhuriyet newspaper said Saturday, quoted by The Associated Press. 

They came after a pro-Islamic newspaper in Turkey, Akit, accused Admiral Guven Erkaya, who died a week ago, of persecuting Muslims. The paper said he died without the forgiveness or blessing of Muslims. 

The opening salvo came from Land Forces Commander Atilla Ates Wednesday, Cumhuriyet said. "We want to get along with our neighbors and want them not to support terrorism," Ates said in a speech to officers. "We do not need to import regimes from any one." 

The AP said that Air Force Commander Ergin Celasin spoke out on Thursday at a graduation ceremony for cadets. "We will continue to fight against the powers that are trying to undermine the foundations of the secular republic," he said. 

Turkish officials have accused Iran before of backing radicals in this predominantly Muslim but strictly secular country, but tensions have grown since Turkish press reports this spring that Iran was behind a series of assassinations over the last decade of prominent secular figures. Iran has denied the accusations. 

Erkaya was among the top brass who pushed the government to crack down on radical Islam and it was Ates who warned Syria in 1998 to end support for the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, battling Turkish troops in Turkey's southeast. 

That message - and the tanks Ates sent to the Syrian border - led Damascus to oust Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan later that year, according to the agency. 

"This should be made very clear: We will not tolerate those interests that are working to bring religious rule to Turkey by secret and dirty means," Ates said -- Albawaba.com 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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