The death of Osama bin Laden will have no major impact on events in the Middle East, where Turkey can play a bigger role in showing neighboring countries their potential, a senior U.S. congressman has said.

"My view of Osama bin Laden was that he was not tactically involved in what is going on in the Middle East and North Africa and I think his death, as a sort of a spiritual leader of resistance to secular Islam, will not change very much about what is going on in those countries," Washington Democratic Congressman Jim McDermott told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview after the killing of the al-Qaeda chief in Pakistan by U.S. forces.

"He certainly did have some emotional sway over many people, but that would go on with or without him," McDermott said. "We made him into much more of a force than he was. We have to recognize that he was successful, but he basically did not have thousands of people out there, and he did not have any kind of control tactically."

It is impossible to predict the outcomes of the popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa and know whether peaceful forces or violent ones like those represented by bin Laden will prevail, but what is important is to figure out how to maintain secular societies, according to the congressman.

"I think it really is [about] how we deal with the whole question of maintaining secular societies, which is the way to go," he said. "I think it is possible for Islam, Christianity and Judaism to all live in the same place. There is no reason why we cannot have such societies."

Turkey as a model

Turkey, a predominantly Muslim and democratic country, with a functioning parliamentary system, is a model that other countries could inherit, according to McDermott.

"It is already an example and I think they [Turks] can play a further role, a bigger role in showing the rest of the Middle East what the potential is," he said.

Turkey was being considered for a pivotal role in the Bush administration's "Greater Middle East" project to promote democracy in a broad region from Morocco to Pakistan. Asked about the place of Turkey in the plans of Barack Obama's administration, McDermott said: "Obviously we are still cooperating with them [Turkey] and working with them."

"We should talk to Turks"

In the interview, the congressman also addressed the Turkish Parliament's rejection in 2003 of the March 1 motion, refusing the use of its territory by U.S. troops to invade Iraq. "I think each sovereign country has its own view. Turkey was not really excited about us going into Iraq and they resisted helping us invade Iraq," McDermott said, quickly adding that he thought Turkey had a "good justification" for doing so.

"They did not want Iraq to become an explosive situation right on their border because they have to live next door. They live in the neighborhood," he said.

"And they are involved in NATO, which is involved in what's going on in Libya. [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan has come out and said [Col. Moammar] Gadhafi should step down," McDermott added. "I think that in every situation we should talk to the Turks. I think the United States should work with them and be involved with them."



Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said Monday that U.S. President Barack Obama should take a lesson from the fate of former U.S. President George Bush.

In a press conference held alongside the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC-IV) in Istanbul, President Ahmadinejad said that he wanted to advise Obama to withdraw all of his forces "from our region."

When reminded about Iranian comments that Osama bin Laden died of a disease and asked if there would be an increase in the number of terrorist acts in the world, President Ahmadinejad said that terrorism took place due to an unfair management in the world.
Our Islamic culture is totally against terror. Civilized states and nations do not need terror.

Terror is the work of states who deceive people. I was personally threatened at times.

Those who came to our region said that they arrived to fight against terror. We knew from the start that they were lying. An independent organization should come forward and start working in counter-terrorism. These people say that they can fight against terror and make the rules themselves and that their rules have to be accepted by all. They do not want any other international organization but NATO in the fight against international terrorism. A separate international organization will bring their aims to daylight, Ahmadinejad said.

Touching on his country's nuclear program, President Ahmadinejad said that Western countries did not want Iran's progress in the nuclear field.

"We have certainly not violated the rules of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)," Ahmadinejad said.



Turkish President Abdullah Gul hosted a dinner in honor of the heads of state and government, heads of delegations, and CEOs who participated in the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC-IV) in Istanbul on Monday.

Gul expressed belief that the conference would be an opportunity to reiterate the commitments to find a permanent solution to the complicated and ongoing problems of the most fragile countries of the world.

Also speaking at the dinner, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed belief that the conference would provide results for the least developed countries of the world, and he thanked Turkey to host the conference.

Noting that Turkey was an important friend of the UN, Ban said that Turkey's diplomatic efforts widened the diplomatic horizons in the world. He added that Turkey had made great contributions in Middle East peace process.


Delivering a speech at the UN conference in Istanbul, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said there were nearly a billion people in the world who lived on a daily income of less than $1 USD. "This is a fact that cannot be overlooked. If this figure does not decrease in the next ten years, our world will be faced with a major danger," he said



Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany – known as the P5+1 – will soon sit at the negotiating table in Istanbul, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday in Istanbul.

"Very soon we are going to provide a reply for Madame Ashton [the European Union's high representative for foreign affairs and security policy] and the officials concerned in Iran will do it very soon," Ahmadinejad said in a press conference at Istanbul's Conrad hotel. He referred to a letter sent by EU's Catherine Ashton in February this year after the unsuccessful Istanbul talks in January. The letter reiterated the P5+1 group's position on Iran's nuclear program.

"We are very happy that the P5+1 is going to return to the negotiation table. We have always supported continued dialogue and we are still ready to have dialogue and to cooperate," Ahmadinejad said, adding that he hoped the group was ready to have dialogue with Iran based on the principles of "justice and equality."

The Iranian president also gave signals that the next talks would be again held in Istanbul, although there was no official confirmation of it. "We hope that in the forthcoming talks in Istanbul we will take a few steps forward. The fact that [the P5+1] have come [back to the negotiations table makes us] understand that the continuation of dialogue is in progress," he said.

Diplomatic sources could not confirm the venue of the coming talks to the Hürriyet Daily News on Monday after the press conference. However, Turkey would be Iran's favorite host country, the sources said.

Asked why previous negotiations on nuclear policies between Iran and the P5+1 had failed, Ahmadinejad said: "We do not think our dialogue has failed. Otherwise, Madame Ashton would certainly not go back to the negotiating table. But it is not simple enough to solve all the problems in one session."

He said that if the parties only needed to focus only on legal issues within the nuclear program, then everything would be solved shortly, with no need for extended debate, as the international law was very clear on this. "It is the right of the Iranian nation to enjoy uranium enrichment. We have the right, we exercise our right under the inspections and monitoring of the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency]."

There are, however, other aspects, especially politically motivated issues, Ahmadinejad said. "Clearly some Western countries do not want us to progress. They don't want Iran and Turkey to reach that high scientific knowledge [already existing] in nuclear nations. So they do not want us to progress."

People in Middle East should decide their own fate

Regarding turmoil in the Middle East, Ahmadinejad said Iran believed that all nations had the right to be free, to have free elections, and to enjoy justice and dignity, all of which he said "must be fulfilled during [times of] peace and reason."

On the other side, the Iranian president criticized military intervention in Libya, saying that it had made matters more complicated than they were before. "I told the U.N. Secretary-General [Ban Ki-moon] today that the U.N. could have prevented the military intervention," he said, adding that the best way to address the situation in Libya was to assign an independent international group, acceptable for the people, the opposition and the government, that could have prepared the ground work for free elections in the country.

"We must join our hands and resources to help ease tension [in Middle East countries], in line with [every party's] interests," said Ahmadinejad, adding that Iran's recommendation was for everyone to sit and talk to each other to find a solution based on the principles of justice and the rights of freedom.

Asked if Iran had reached any conclusions regarding how the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad had to act now, Ahmadinejad said: "The people and the government of Syria have reached the maturity to decide for themselves. There is no need for intervention [from abroad]."

Ahmadinejad was not asked, within the limited time available for journalist's questions, about the recent tensions he has had with his country's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,.

Ahmadinejad warned Obama to leave the region

Iran does not believe in the intentions and information provided by the United States regarding the death of Osama bin Laden, the former leader of the terrorist group Al-Qaeda.

"We do not trust them, but something can be taken into consideration probably – maybe they are going to wrap up the event of Sept. 11," Ahmadinejad said, adding that if somebody made an independent investigation, the world would see the one-sided and wrong information provided by the U.S. government concerning that accident.

Iranian Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi announced recently that Iran possessed reliable documents proving that bin Laden had died long before from disease. However, Ahmadinejad did not make any comments on a question related to Moslehi's earlier statement.

Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad urged U.S. President Barack Obama to take the necessary action to withdraw from the region.

"They are going to spread violence and conflict in Pakistan. I want to warn Obama to learn from the experiences of Bush and he should immediately pull out from our region," the Iranian president said, adding that if Obama committed "such a big mistake," then he would face a fate more shameful and doomed than Bush. "In propaganda campaigns, they should not play games with the destiny and fate of a nation."

Ahmadinejad was also asked for his opinion on recent changes in the U.S.'s national security council, on which he said: "In the U.S., decisions are made outside the power of the national security team or the U.S. administration. There are people behind the scene leading and running everything."

He said he thought a change was occurring in the U.S. strategy regarding its policies in the region. "We hope that will happen in the right direction. We already helped them withdraw from our region. Now they have a very good excuse. They say, 'We have been successful in effectively fighting back against terrorism.' Thank you very much for fighting terrorism very effectively and successfully. Please go back to your home, if you can do something, do it for yourselves."



Leaders of the 48 least developed countries, donor countries and institutions will gather here Monday for a UN conference to discuss a new 10-year development plan for the world's poorest nations.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will chair the conference and among those attending will be Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso.

Ban, already in Istanbul, met Karzai on Sunday to discuss sustainable development in Afghanistan and developments in the Middle East and north Africa, particularly Libya, according to a statement from the UN chief's office.

Ban had similar talks with Barroso, which also covered talks on the negotiations in ethnically divided Cyprus and political developments in Bosnia.

Ban met too with Nepal's Prime Minister, Jhalanath Khanal, to discuss the peace process there after the end of the decade-long conflict, in which at least 16,000 people died, between Maoist rebels and the state.

The Fourth United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries (LDC) will last for five days. The LDC countries are defined as those with an annual per capita income of less than $745 USD.

The conference will also assess the Brussels Plan, implemented over the previous 10 years, to support the LDCs, said a UN statement.

Negotiators for the LDCs (33 in Africa, 14 in Asia, plus Haiti) "are looking to put in place measures for building infrastructure to attain economic self-sufficiency, push back poverty and create decent jobs," the UN statement said.

"The most economically vulnerable countries in the world are looking for the world's larger economies to open up market access for LDC exports, to continue to increase development aid and better target it toward infrastructure and leveraging new investment, and to provide incentives for companies thinking of investing in LDCs," it added.

The executive European Commission underlined, in a statement Friday, its commitment to help the LDCs out of poverty. "As the largest donor to the least developed countries, with 15 billion euros of aid in 2010, the EU will urge other partners to match its pledge to provide from 0.15% to 0.20% of its gross national income to LDCs," it said.

The LDCs are home to 645 million people living below the poverty line -- and their total populations are expected to double by 2050. Economically vulnerable and socially weak, they account together for only 1% of world trade.

The topic of rising food prices also needed to be adressed, the UN said.

"Rising food prices pose a severe challenge and an opportunity. Most LDCs are net food importers and one third of their populations are chronically malnourished.

"But if modern infrastructure is in place and local farmers have access to necessary support, they might benefit from firm prices and launch a turnaround in low-productivity agriculture," said the UN statement.

Campaigners from Sierra Leone, one of the LDCs, stressed that the cost of food was a key issue there.

Sorie Conteh, secretary-general of Sierra Leone's Food for Survival, insisted the conference should produce action, rather than mere talk.

"People here are just barely living from hour to hour, battered by poverty and unemployment. The call is that the conference should not be reduced to a talk-shop but to an action-oriented movement," she told AFP.

"The issue of rising food prices is of fundamental importance to a country like Sierra Leone with a glutted economy which is donor driven," said Christine Webber of People for Sustainable Living.

The conference is held every 10 years. France staged the first two, in 1981 and 1990, while Brussels hosted the third in 2001.



Turkey has urged the United Nations to back the recent Palestinian reconciliation deal between rivals Hamas and Fatah. Meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Turkey's foreign minister asked the U.N. chief to support the process to keep the deal alive, diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu met Ban on Monday on the sidelines of the 4th U.N. Conference on the Least Developed Countries. Gül discussed the agreement Fatah and Hamas reached, underlining his concerns that Israel's negative attitude on the deal could harm the commitment to Palestinian reunification.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal buried the hatchet at a Cairo reconciliation ceremony late last month, which ended a nearly four-year feud, but which has angered Israel. However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu aims to convince the international community that the deal between Abbas's secular Fatah faction and the Islamist Hamas, which the Jewish state boycotts as a terrorist organization, will be disastrous for Middle East peace.

Davutoğlu and the U.N. chief also discussed how to keep momentum on Cyprus talks between Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders. Ban proposed another tour of trilateral meeting under the shield of the U.N. chief for June.

Ban said he appreciated Turkey's efforts for a solution to the Libya crises, and asked Ankara to be involved in ongoing process to reach a ceasefire in the conflict-hit country, diplomatic sources said.

Turkey not model, but sample

President Abdullah Gül met with Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission on Monday and discussed the recent turmoil in the Middle East. Barroso said the Commission shows Turkey as a model for many developing countries, diplomatic sources said. Yet, Gül opposed Turkey being a model, but stressed that Turkey could be a "sample" for those countries.



Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan promises European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso he will accelerate the country's EU accession negotiations after the June 12 elections. Speaking on the sidelines of the 4th UN Least Developed Counties Conference in Istanbul, Erdoğan also says he will visit to Brussels to hold talks on the issue.

The Turkish prime minister and the head of the European Commission have agreed to ramp up long-stalled EU accession talks after Turkey's June 12 general election.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that the European Commission wants to "immediately boost" negotiations for Turkey's membership in the EU after the election, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned.

The two political figures held a bilateral meeting Monday on the sidelines of the 4th U.N. Least Developed Countries Conference, or LDC-IV, in Istanbul.

In the meeting, Barroso told Erdoğan that the European Union was following the prime minister's remarks in his election rallies.

"We appreciate that you give importance to Turkey's relations with the EU," Barroso told Erdoğan. The European official also asked the prime minister about the preparation of Turkey's new constitution, and said the Commission is waiting to hear about the steps in the process.

Erdoğan responded positively to Barroso's proposal to accelerate the EU membership process, and said he wanted to visit Brussels after the June polls, a trip he has postponed due to his election campaign. The Cyprus problem and the Nabucco pipeline project were also discussed at the meeting Monday.

The slowdown in Turkey's EU membership negotiations was also on the agenda of Turkish President Abdullah Gül during his meeting with Barroso on Monday. Diplomatic sources said Gül criticized the vacillation of some EU countries over Turkey's accession. "There are private opinions" among some members of the 27-nation bloc that negatively affect Turkey's relations with the European Union, Gül said.

Turkey and the EU began accession talks in 2005 but Ankara has only been able to open 13 negotiation chapters out of 35. Turkey has opened no new policy chapters recently in the longest period of diplomatic drought since the accession talks started.

The Turkish government has accused EU countries of slowing the talks, while the EU continues to press Turkey to keep its promises to open its ports and airports to Greek Cypriot vessels. Talks on eight chapters have been suspended since Turkey has been seen as not fulfilling its obligation toward Greek Cyprus.



Turkey's state minister and deputy prime minister said on Monday that the ruling Justice & Development (AK) Party would put a new constitution to referendum even if it were adopted by votes in favor of all lawmakers.

Bulent Arinc said the AK Party would add such a provision to the law concerned.

"We will hold a referendum even though a new constitution is adopted by 467 votes," Arinc told representatives of several local TV channels in Ankara.

Arinc said his personal view was to at least to keep the party's vote, which was 47%, in the previous elections, and to raise this ratio.

The new constitution the AK Party was planning to introduce after the June 12th general elections would have fewer articles than the one in practice, Arinc said.

Arinc also said the new constitution would not be state-focused but human-focused and the AK Party was not planning to complete constitutional studies within a few months.



U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis J. Ricciardone has said that some claims saying that the United States did not assist Turkey sufficiently in its fight against terrorism were wrong and a lie.

Speaking to an AA correspondent in the Western province of Izmir, Ricciardone said that the United States had diplomatic cooperation with Turkey in combating terrorism, and called on other countries to put pressure on the terrorist organization PKK.

Ricciardone said that the United States designated five members of the terrorist organization PKK as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers, and froze the assets of these five individuals.

Turkey and the United States had cooperation in diplomacy, law and intelligence, he said.

Ricciardone said the United States declared PKK clearly a terrorist organization.

Ricciardone said that his country attached a great importance to the improvement of commercial ties with Turkey.

Perfect relations between the two countries in the areas of strategy, politics, defense and security would continue, he said.

The U.S. ambassador said that 10-15 US companies operating in oil and gas sectors would visit Turkey and discuss opportunities for cooperation with Turkish businesspeople; he also stated that Turkish businessmen would visit the United States to hold talks.

Ricciardone said that the United States also assisted Turkey in regard to defense industry.

He recalled that US defence giant Sikorsky won a tender for the joint manufacture of helicopters for the Turkish army worth $3.5 billion. The tender would boost military skills of Turkey and also improve the export capacity of the country, he said.


The web-site that has posted images which caused the resignation of two chairmen of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), has started to post articles against the ruling Justice & Development (AK) Party. The web-site aired claims against the prime minister and some AK Party members.



The Turkish prime minister has rejected allegations that Turkey has changed its traditional Western-oriented foreign policy for a new high-profile appearance in the Middle East and the Black Sea area.

"Claims over an axis shift do not reflect the truth. Our foreign policy has only found its natural course," Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday in a televised interview on the private Turkish channel, Kanal 7.

Touching on a wave of political unrest across the Middle East and North Africa, Erdogan said the uprising in Tunisia created a domino effect in the region.

"The clashes reached Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Algeria and Morocco, and eventually Libya. Frankly, we didn't expect such a turmoil to happen in Libya," Erdogan said, adding that he had spoken to the Libyan leader three times when the incidents first erupted.

Erdogan said that Turkey welcomed the signing of a pact between Palestinian rivals Hamas and Al Fatah to end their four-year rift; he added that Turkey favored a solution to the Middle East problem through the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.


Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who told the prosecutor "to reveal realities, otherwise he himself would do so" regarding the surprise in the university entrance exam, spoke to the Hurriyet daily newspaper when no statement was made.
Kilicdaroglu said, "Police found an e-mail in one of computers of the Student Selection and Replacement Center (OSYM) implying that 'the named person should be placed in a good university' in one of previous exams." Kilicdaroglu said he did not yet know whether that mentioned person was placed in a university; however, he was expecting some new information to be conveyed to himself.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivered an important messages at the 4th UN Conference on Least Developed Countries held in Istanbul. Erdogan said that Turkey had been left alone in its determined fight against terrorism. "Today, there are still some countries which do not support our fight, but extend help to the terrorist organization," he said. The UN Secretary General, the European Commission President as well as many heads of state and government listened to Erdogan's speech.


Turkey's Calik Holding held a groundbreaking ceremony on Monday for the construction of a power plant in the city of Karbala in northern Iraq. "We are feeling ourselves at home in Iraq. We will complete the construction as scheduled and deliver it to the Iraqi authorities in the best shape," Calik's CEO Ahmet Calik told the ceremony.

Fethullah Gulen responded to recent allegations. Gulen said there were circles in which a global darkening campaign had been launched, and that all allegations would be responded to. Gulen underlined the importance of the style of the response, and said, "We can only make a legitimate defense against cruel attacks; we will not show our fists to those who show their fists."


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