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Turkish Premier Misses Meeting

June 20, 2002

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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ Turkey’s ailing premier again failed to return to work Thursday, despite expectations that he would lead an important meeting of his political party in parliament.

Bulent Ecevit, 77, has been resting at home since being hospitalized twice in May. He is credited with holding Turkey’s coalition government together, and concerns about his health have caused the stock market and national currency to dip.

``Doctors do not find it suitable for me to attend any kind of meeting for now as I continue to rest,″ the premier said in a one-sentence statement after doctors paid a 45-minute visit to his house.

Ecevit was expected to attend the first parliamentary meeting of his Democratic Left Party in two months on Thursday. The party met behind closed doors without Ecevit. He also canceled an appointment with opposition leader Tansu Ciller for Friday.

Despite doctor’s concerns, Ecevit had been hoping to return to work as political parties debate whether to abolish the death penalty _ a crucial part of the country’s bid to join the European Union.

Parliament is expected to recess by the end of June and Ecevit’s meeting with Ciller was considered essential to finding a compromise on abolishing capital punishment.

Ecevit’s last public appearance was at a news conference on June 9.

Ecevit has suffered intestinal problems, a cracked rib, a vein infection and a spinal injury. Newspapers have speculated he also has Parkinson’s disease and another serious nervous disorder, but Ecevit has denied the reports.

On Thursday, Ecevit’s doctor, Turgut Zileli, told private NTV television the premier’s response to treatment was ``much better than expected.″

He said the premier was under strict orders to rest at home and avoid lengthy meetings over the next week, NTV reported.

Zileli said Ecevit’s ``neurological problems″ were under control, but did not elaborate.

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