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Clinton

Hillary Clinton pays tribute to Turkish hero

March 26, 1996
Web posted at: 6 p.m. EST (2300 GMT)

From Correspondent Jill Dougherty

ANKARA, Turkey (CNN) -- First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton kicked off a two-day visit to the Muslim world's most westernized country by laying a wreath at the tomb of the man who led Turkey down its secular course more than 70 years ago.

Wreath

On the third day of a weeklong goodwill trip through southern Europe, Mrs. Clinton visited the tomb of Kemal Ataturk, the father of the Turkish republic who promoted women's rights and established a strictly secular state in 1923.

After the ceremony on a windswept hillside in the Turkish capital, Mrs. Clinton spent an hour with prominent female politicians and business leaders, including Turkish President Suleyman Demirel's wife, Nazmiye.

The women stressed the country's need for better education and family planning.

Mrs. Clinton called the experience a rich one. (221K AIFF sound or 221K WAV sound)

President Demirel

She also met with members of the new Turkish government and President Demirel, who will meet with his U.S. counterpart in Washington later this week.

The visit was portrayed by Mrs. Clinton as strictly ceremonial, but it nevertheless illustrated Turkey's role in regional politics and its importance to the United States.

Turkey plays a crucial role in NATO and the Bosnian peacekeeping mission, but it has been criticized lately by its allies for its human rights record. Its relations with Greece are also tense, an item likely to be on the agenda later this week.

Clinton

The highlight of the first lady's Turkish visit is to be a speech in Istanbul Thursday on women's and children's rights. She also planned to visit the ancient biblical city of Ephesus on the Aegean Coast.

Mrs. Clinton travels next to Greece for a visit that will include the lighting of an Olympic flame that will burn at the July 19-August 4 summer games in Atlanta. She will return to Washington Sunday.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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