2 Turkish Cabinet Members Resign Over Islamic Policies

Officials Angry At Failure To Reverse Religious Policies

April 27, 1997|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- The government of Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, modern Turkey's first leader from an Islamic party, was shaken yesterday by the resignation of two Cabinet ministers, which, along with a series of other defections, suggested that the government could fall within days.

The two ministers who announced their resignations said they were angered by Erbakan's reluctance to reverse some of his Islamist policies as he had agreed to do in February under pressure from Turkey's military.

Military commanders, who view themselves as guardians of the country's secular principles, have been increasingly vocal in their criticism of Erbakan's Islamist policies.

The criticism reached a new level after Erbakan returned this month from Mecca, where he made the sacred pilgrimage known as the hajj. One commander, Gen. Osman Ozbek, went so far as to describe Erbakan as "a pimp" for accepting the hospitality of the conservative Saudi government.

Among Erbakan's promises are pledges to cut the number of students being trained at religious academies, crack down on Muslim groups who are believed to be accumulating weapons, close unlicensed "Koran schools" and end his party's recruitment of officers released from the army because of their fundamentalist sympathies.

Erbakan came to power in June after an election in which his Welfare Party, an Islamic party, won less than 22 percent of the vote. He formed a coalition with the True Path Party headed by Tansu Ciller, who became his foreign minister.

Military commanders have come to detest both Erbakan, whom they view as having a hidden agenda aimed at destroying Turkish secularism, and Ciller, whom they consider corrupt and willing to deal with anyone who will protect her from prosecution.

Last week a handful of Erbakan's supporters in Parliament said they were preparing to defect from the coalition in order to bring down the government by leaving it without a parliamentary majority.

Their leader, Aydin Menderes, who is a vice chairman of Erbakan's Welfare Party, has told associates that he fears a military coup if the government is not brought down democratically.

Menderes' father, Adnan Menderes, was president of Turkey in 1960 when the military staged a coup. He was later hanged along with several members of his government.

Pub Date: 4/27/97

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