Bomb blasts herald Blair's Turkey visit

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The Independent Online

Four small bombs have exploded outside branches of the HSBC bank in Turkey ahead of a summit meeting visit today by Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Four small bombs have exploded outside branches of the HSBC bank in Turkey ahead of a summit meeting visit today by Prime Minister Tony Blair.

One device went off underneath a parked car in Ankara and another shattered windows of a bank. Two similar blasts caused minor damage to branches in Istanbul.

Suspected al Qaida bombers blew up trucks packed with explosives at the British consulate and the main headquarters of HSBC in Istanbul in November, killing 27 people. The truck bombings had coincided with US President George Bush's state visit to Britain.

Mr Blair will meet President Ahmet Sezer and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara for talks that will focus on Turkey's bid to join the EU, Cyprus, Iraq and the Middle East.

Britain has been a strong supporter of Turkey's application to join the expanding EU and the country currently holds candidate nation status, along with Romania and Bulgaria.

Downing Street officials said Turkey had played a "constructive" role in trying to resolve the issue of Cyprus - where a recent referendum voted down the United Nations plan to resolve the island's status.

The Turkish northern sector of the island voted in favour of the UN-brokered agreement but the Greek southern sector overwhelmingly rejected it.

Only the Greek-backed government is internationally recognised.

Turkey, a secular Muslim state and member of Nato, was also praised by British officials for its help over Iraq, despite its fears of a Kurdish incursion across its borders.



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