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Turkey faces pounds 6bn repair bill for second earthquake

t CLINTON'S VISIT US President arrives in Istanbul as death toll and rebuilding costs mount while survivors face a desperate winter without homes survivors
PRESIDENT Bill Clinton arrived in Turkey at its darkest hour yesterday, as rescuers began to give up hope of finding more survivors from Friday's earthquake that killed at least 349. Mr Clinton came with a message of hope for Turkey's future as the anchor of a peaceful Europe, and for a solution to one of the most intractable territorial problems in the world, the 1974 division of Cyprus.

"We have a chance to start a new century on higher ground," Mr Clinton said at a ceremony to welcome him in Ankara. "We must continue to fulfil the vision of a Europe undivided, democratic and in peace for the first time in history, anchored by a stable and prosperous Turkey."

The American President promised to "work for a future in which Turkey continues to be an ally of America, a partner in the new Europe and reconciled with other nations in the region, especially our friends in Greece."

He also praised Turkey for its progress in improving its human rights record. "There has been an impressive momentum in the last few years and I hope there will be continued progress, especially in the area of freedom of expression," he said. But even as he began his visit, police were beating anti-American protesters, breaking up a peaceful demonstration in Ankara.

Mr Clinton's extended visit, which will culminate in a world summit in Istanbul, is intended as evidence of the importance America attaches to its alliance with Turkey.

This should have been Turkey's finest hour. Elaborate preparations were made for the visit of Mr Clinton, his wife, Hillary, and daughter, Chelsea. Now Mr Clinton is changing his itinerary to include a visit to the new disaster area today, and promising to consider more US aid amid predictions this new quake could cost Turkey $10bn on top of the $12bn from the earthquake in August that killed at least 17,000.

Yet, in spite of its grief, Turkey looks more likely than ever to fulfil its dream and be named as a candidate for EU membership next month.

There are signs of a thaw at least over Cyprus, another key issue - besides human rights - which has kept Turkey off the list of candidates for Europe Union membership. UN-sponsored talks between the Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, and his Greek Cypriot counterpart, Glafkos Clerides, are to be restarted in December over Cyprus.

"A very hard road lies ahead," Mr Clinton said on his way to Turkey. "The Cyprus problem has been with us for a long time - far too long. It will not be resolved overnight. But today we have new hope."

Maureen Freely,

Review, Front