Turkish Military Warns About Islamist Rule

ANKARA (Reuters)–Turkey’s powerful military vowed on Tuesday to stand firm against Islamist activism which it sees as a threat to the country’s officially secular order–the state-run Anatolian news agency said.

The army’s renewed commitment to protect the constitution came amid efforts to set up a new government excluding the main opposition Islamist party.

The staunchly secularist military has signaled it does not want Islamists in office.

"Anti-secularist activities today cannot…subvert the constitutional order and will have to reckon with the heroic Turkish armed forces," the agency quoted Chief of Staff Huseyin Kivrikoglu as saying in a written statement.

Turkey’s secularist politicians–deeply involved in personal bickering–have failed to put together a new government since conservative Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz’s coalition was toppled under corruption allegations last month.

President Suleyman Demirel is now expected to appoint an "independent" member of parliament as prime minister-designate to bypass squabbling secularist leaders.

Islamist Virtue Party leader Recai Kutan has been forced to the sidelines of the government search despite heading the largest grouping in parliament.

Any new government is due to be a temporary one to take the country to the polls next April.

"The Turkish armed forces–stronger than yesterday–is on duty to protect the principles and the reforms of great leader Ataturk," Kivrikoglu said.

Kivrikoglu made the statement to mark the anniversary of the killing of an army officer by a group of radical Islamists shortly after Mustafa Kemal Ataturk came to power in 1923.

As part of the recent anti-Islamist crackdown–prosecutors have launched a fresh case against former Istanbul Mayor Recep Tayyip Erdogan for "weakening and insulting" the legal authorities–Anatolian said on Tuesday.

The case was filed after Erdogan criticized a 10-month jail sentence he received for reciting a poem which was deemed provocative. Erdogan now faces between three and 18 extra months in prison with the latest charges.

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