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New Turkey Premier Faces Setback

December 4, 1998

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ The Turkish premier-designate’s chances of forming a coalition without the country’s Islamic party dimmed Friday after the party of a former prime minister refused to join any coalition with a bitter rival.

Premier-designate Bulent Ecevit is a veteran politician of the left and staunchly pro-secular in this predominantly Islamic nation. He was asked this week to replace the 17-month-old government that collapsed when Premier Mesut Yilmaz lost a confidence vote last month.

Ecevit has made clear that he would refuse to turn to parliament’s largest party, the pro-Islamic Virtue party, for a majority.

But if former Prime Minister Tansu Ciller sticks to her refusal to join the three-party team proposed by Ecevit, virtually the only government that could be formed without the Islamic forces would be a minority coalition with outside support in parliament from Yilmaz’s toppled party.

Mrs. Ciller’s True Path party decided after a meeting Friday to reject any proposal that would put it in the same coalition with Yilmaz.

``That would mean the revival of a government that was just toppled because of irregularities in state contracts, corruption and links to gangs,″ said Mrs. Ciller’s close aide, Hasan Ekinci.

``We tried a coalition before and everyone knows how that ended,″ he said. A three-month alliance in 1996 collapsed when Yilmaz backed corruption probes against Mrs. Ciller.

Also Friday, Yilmaz, now caretaker premier, met with top army brass to reportedly discuss about 50 officers suspected of ties to radical Islam.

After the meeting, private Kanal D television said 86 officers were sacked for disciplinary reasons.

The military, which has asserted itself as the guarantor of Turkey’s secular traditions, has fired hundreds of officers in the last two years to rid its ranks of alleged militant Islamic tendencies.

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