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Turkey's centre-right cobbles up a coalition



Turkey's two centre-right parties yesterday promised to bury their decade- old political feud, announcing a coalition that will deny a place in government to the pro-Islamic Welfare Party.

The Welfare party, which came first in the indecisive elections on 24 December with 21 per cent of the vote, was in no doubt about the cause of their sudden change in fortune. It blamed "them" - that is, huge pressure from the army and the establishment on the centre-right to join forces.

The caretaker Prime Minister, Tansu Ciller, leader of the True Path Party, looked composed as she sat next to the Motherland Party leader, Mesut Yilmaz, in Ankara to announce agreement on the "main lines" of a five- year coalition.

"There will be a rotating premiership. I believe it will be a successful development for Turkey," she said, adding that a two-party committee would meet tomorrow to discuss details and that she would meet again with Mr Yilmaz on Friday.

The two leaders took no questions, but confirmation that Mr Yilmaz will take first turn at being prime minister could be read on his face, which bore a broad smile.

Until the middle of last week, it had seemed certain that Mr Yilmaz would join forces with the Islamists. But in the middle of last week, something happened that made Mrs Ciller drop her demand that she remain Prime Minister. Some commentators, used to the frequent coups and interventions of the armed forces in Turkish politics, said that what made the difference was a visit to her holiday ski resort by the armed forces Chief of Staff.

"We don't have memoranda or warning letters any more. We have more modern, delicate methods," wrote Yalcin Dogan in the daily Milliyet, one of Turkey's more pro-military newspapers.