Ciller Rejects Ecevit Coalition Offer

ANKARA (Reuters)–Turkish Prime Minister-designate Bulent Ecevit’s efforts to form a new coalition suffered a severe blow on Wednesday when conservative leader Tansu Ciller rejected his offer to join a government.

Ecevit said instead he would try to form a minority coalition with Ciller’s rival conservative leader–Mesut Yilmaz. Ciller–Turkey’s first woman prime minister–said she might tacitly support the plan if other parties agreed to do the same.

"She said that she definitely rejected our proposal of a three-way coalition," Ecevit told reporters in parliament after the meeting. "I do not give up easily…I said I am willing to form a minority government."

President Suleyman Demirel asked veteran leftist Ecevit to form a government last week after the collapse in November of a minority coalition led by Yilmaz under corruption allegations.

Any new government would probably run the country only until elections–set by parliament for April 1999. Turkey has not had political stability since a coalition fell in 1995. Parliament is deeply split between the bickering leaders.

"We told Ecevit he should look for a government with broad backing from the outside and we could give him moral support," Ciller told reporters after the meeting.

"I am going to negotiate with all parties in parliament," Ecevit said when asked whether he would talk to the Islam-based Virtue Party which has been excluded from negotiations

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