EU pledges aid as Turkey says quake may cost $7bn

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The Independent Online
SENIOR EUROPEAN officials yesterday offered further help to earthquake- stricken Turkey, hoping the gesture will help improve strained ties with Ankara. But a Turkish minister said his government would shun any offer of aid that had strings attached.

Foreign aid has poured into the country since last week's disaster. The government puts the bill for damage at $5bn to $7bn (pounds 3bn to pounds 4.5bn). The European Union has already rushed relief to the country, and promised 4m euros (pounds 2.7m). Despite tensions between Brussels and Ankara, the EU said yesterday it was considering aid of 25m to 30m euros to ease the devastation caused by the quake, which left up to 40,000 dead.

While the Turkish government has promised to provide prefabricated shelter before winter for the 200,000 left homeless, reconstructing huge parts of towns will take much longer. In places such as Golcuk and Adapazari most buildings will have to be razed before reconstruction can begin. Ankara is planning new taxes on alcohol, cigarettes and mobile phones to help pay for the reconstruction.

Brussels and Ankara have been at loggerheads since December 1997, when the EU put Turkey to the back of its queue of would-be members because of its record on human rights and its disputes with Greece, an EU member. Turkey then cut political dialogue with the EU.

But Greece was one of the first countries to offer aid to Turkey, providing food, medicine and even blood. And EU assistance will be crucial if the Turkish government is to prevent the aftermath of the quake becoming a disaster in itself.

But the State Minister of Turkey, Tunca Toskay, said: "We will only take EU money for the earthquake if it has no strings attached... We will turn inwards and cut our half-loaf of bread to a fourth and heal our own wounds."

In the camps for the homeless, Turks are furious with their government. "For five days we had to sleep on the floor as we had no tent," said Orham Ozfaris, a retired civil servant. The only break for the authorities is that so far - despite cramped conditions and the lack of hygiene - there have been no serious outbreaks of diseases such as typhoid and cholera.

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