Erdoğan Offers ‘Arab Spring’ Neo-Laicism

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Daily News

TUNIS

2011-09-16T144830Z_1057611084_GM1E79G1N2G01_RTRMADP_3_LIBYA

Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (L) and Chairman of Libya’s National Transitional Council Mustafa Abdel Jalil wave to people during a rally at Martyrs’ Square in Tripoli September 16, 2011. 

REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

Following criticism in Egypt, the Turkish PM repeats his support for secular governments where he says all religious groups are treated equally

Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan (L) draws intense interest during his visit to a covered bazaar in the Tunisian capital, Tunis. AA photo Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday repeated his controversial call for uprising-hit Arab countries to adopt “secular states,” following Turkey’s model.

“Turkey is a democratic, secular and social state of law. As for secularism, a secular state has an equal distance to all religious groups, including Muslim, Christian, Jewish and atheist people,”
Erdoğan said during a visit to Tunis, the place where the wave of pro-democracy revolts sweeping the Middle East and North Africa began late last year.

“Tunisia will prove to the whole world that Islam and democracy can co-exist. Turkey with its predominantly Muslim population has achieved it,” Erdoğan said. His administration is seen by many as a model for post-revolution Arab countries, though Islamic groups in Egypt were split over his pro-secularism remarks there.

“On the subject of secularism, this is not secularism in the Anglo-Saxon or Western sense; a person is not secular, the state is secular,” Erdoğan said, describing Turkey as democratic and secular. “A Muslim can govern a secular state in a successful way. In Turkey, 99 percent of the population is Muslim, and it did not pose any problem.

You can do the same here.”

Erdoğan traveled to Tunisia following a rapturous welcome in Cairo and issued the kind of trademark warning to Israel that has earned him hero status on his “Arab Spring tour.”

“Israel will no longer be able to do what it wants in the Mediterranean and you’ll be seeing Turkish warships in this sea,” the Turkish prime minister said after meeting with his Tunisian counterpart, Beji Caid Essebsi, on the third day of his visit to North Africa.

Erdoğan reiterated his insistence on an Israeli apology for last year’s raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla that left nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists dead.

“Relations with Israel cannot normalize if Israel does not apologize for the flotilla raid, compensate the martyrs’ families and lift the blockade on Gaza,” Erdoğan said, adding that Turkey would assure protection for Turkish vessels bound for Gaza or elsewhere in international waters. “Israel cannot do whatever it wants in the eastern Mediterranean. It will see our determination. Our frigates, our assault boats will be there.”

Erdoğan’s visit marks “the willingness to strengthen brotherly relations and cooperation between Tunisia and Turkey,” the Tunisian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was one of the first top foreign officials to visit Tunisia in February and is also among the Turkish ministers accompanying Erdoğan on his visit. Davutoğlu signed a friendship and cooperation agreement with his Tunisian counterpart, Mouldi Kefi, in Tunisia on Thursday.

Accompanied by a delegation of ministers and businessmen, Erdoğan arrived late Wednesday at the Tunis international airport, where he was welcomed by Prime Minister Essebsi.

Around 4,000 people waving Turkish and Palestinian flags had also gathered at the airport under heavy security to show their support for the man who has become one of the region’s most popular leaders.

Erdoğan is due in Libya on Friday for the final leg of his tour. The transitional administration there has also said that Islam would be the main source of legislation in the new Libya.

* Compiled from AFP, AP, Reuters and AA stories by the Daily News staff.a

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Hundreds of Yemeni Troops Defect to Rebels

June 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Mohammed Mokhashaf and Mohamed Sudam

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An anti-government protester with his face painted in the colours of Yemen’s flag shouts as others chew qat during a rally to demand the ouster of Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa June 28, 2011. The words painted on the protester’s chest read as “Uncover chests”.

REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

ADEN/SANAA (Reuters) – At least 26 Yemeni government soldiers and 17 militants linked to al Qaeda were killed on Wednesday in heavy fighting for control of a stadium near the southern city of Zinjibar, officials said.

The military setback, following reports that 300 of his soldiers had defected to the opposition, was another blow to President Ali Abdullah Saleh as recovers in Saudi Arabia from injuries sustained in an attack on his palace in early June.

Yemen, the poorest Arab state and a neighbor of the world’s largest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, has been shaken by months of protests against Saleh’s three-decade rule, a resurgent wing of al Qaeda and a separatist rebellion in the south.

The United States and Saudi Arabia fear that al Qaeda may use the chaos to launch attacks in the region and beyond.

Yemeni officials said the militants seized control of the stadium from government forces, who have been using the facility — built recently to host a regional football tournament — to support troops fighting to dislodge the militants from Zinjibar.

An official said losing the stadium, located near a military base from which government forces had been launching attacks on Zinjibar, exposed a military base that had been used to launch attacks on the militants in Zinjibar. A counter offensive to retake the position was in progress, he said.

“The militant control of the field will leave the back of the camp from the east exposed,” the official said.

Yemeni officials had been reporting successes against the estimated 300 militants who seized control of Zinjibar in May in the midst of a groundswell of popular protests against the nearly 33-year autocratic rule of Saleh.

His opponents say his forces handed over the city to the militants to bolster his argument that his departure would lead to an Islamist takeover of the Arabian Peninsula state.

Yemeni air force planes had killed at least 10 gunmen in attacks on Zinjibar earlier on Wednesday, a local Yemeni official said. One strike mistakenly hit a bus traveling from Zinjibar to Aden, the official added, killing five passengers and wounding 12 other people.

Defection

Earlier in the day, opposition officials reported that more than 300 members of Yemeni security forces, including 150 from the Republican Guards led by Saleh’s son Ahmed, had defected to rebels.

“From the podium of the Square of Change in Sanaa, an announcement has been issued that 150 soldiers from the Republican Guards, 130 Central Security soldiers and 60 policemen have joined the revolt,” an opposition message said.

No government officials were immediately available to comment on the report.

If confirmed, the mutinies would be a serious reverse for Saleh, who has spent the past three weeks receiving medical treatment in Riyadh for wounds suffered in the June 3 attack.

The defections are the latest in a series by security forces since the anti-Saleh uprising began in February. Most prominent was the defection in March of Brigadier General Ali Mohsen, who has since sent in his troops to guard protesters in Sanaa.

The protests have culminated in battles between Saleh loyalists and gunmen from the powerful Hashed tribal federation in Sanaa that brought the country to the verge of civil war.

Months of unrest have cost Yemen $4 billion, a senior Yemeni official said on Wednesday, adding the Arab state was in talks with potential donors to help plug a gap of $1.5 billion in government commitments for projects funded by Sanaa.

“We are talking with the IMF, the World Bank and donor countries, whether Gulf Arab states or others. There may be some discussions next week with the IMF,” Abdulla al-Shater, deputy planning and international cooperation minister, told reporters on the sidelines of a financial conference in Saudi Arabia.

Yemen has been largely quiet with a ceasefire in place since Saleh was injured in the attack, which investigators say was caused by explosives planted in the palace mosque where he and several senior government officials were praying

Saleh, 69, who has not been seen in public since the attack, has resisted pressure from the United States and Saudi Arabia to hand over power to his deputy, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, under a Gulf nations’ initiative to end the crisis.

Hadi has been running the country in Saleh’s absence, but the opposition wants the president to officially hand over power to him to pave the way for new elections.

Officials have said the president will soon make his first public appearance since the attack with a recorded message to be broadcast on Yemeni state television.

Officer Killed

In further violence, a bomb killed a colonel when it exploded in his car on Tuesday night in the port city of Aden, a security source said on Wednesday.

The source said that Colonel Khaled al-Yafi’i was the commander of a military outpost guarding the Aden Free Zone business park’s entrance.

The outpost was targeted by a car bomb on Friday that killed four soldiers and a civilian and injured 16 other people.

No one has claimed responsibility for the colonel’s killing, but Islamist militants affiliated with al Qaeda are active in southern Yemen.

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