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Turkish general defends secularism

  • Story Highlights
  • Turkey's top soldier says country's next president must uphold secular values
  • Government's nomination of Abdullah Gul prompted current political crisis
  • PM Erdogan's AK Party achieved resounding victory in elections this month
  • Gul, a former Islamist, expected to resubmit candidacy this week
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ANKARA, Turkey (Reuters) -- Turkey's top general on Monday reiterated that the military wanted the next president to uphold the country's secular values, potentially reviving tensions between the secularist establishment and the government.

Gul's nomination to the Turkish presidency triggered a political crisis in Turkey in April.

The comments from Chief of General Staff General Yasar Buyukanit come amid recent concerns in financial markets about the presidency after an initial attempt to hold a presidential election was derailed earlier this year.

"We are still behind what we said... We said what we said with conviction," Buyukanit told reporters when asked whether he stood behind his comments on April 12, insisting that the next president have genuine secular credentials.

These were the first comments from the powerful military on the subject since Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party, which has its roots in political Islam, achieved a resounding victory in a general election on July 22.

That election was called early after the army-backed secular elite blocked his choice of an ex-Islamist ally as Turkey's next president.

Parliament is set to convene on Saturday and the first major issue which it faces will be the election to choose a successor for the staunchly secular Ahmet Necdet Sezer, a fierce critic of the AK Party.

The military rejected the candidacy of Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul as president, fearing he would erode the republic's separation of religion and state, but there is a growing expectation that he will resubmit his candidacy.

Buyukanit told the news conference in April the military hoped the next president will be somebody genuinely bound by the basic values of the republic, including secularism, "not somebody who just pays lip service to them." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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